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Sleep is Vital

There is nothing more important than them getting the correct amount of sleep. I am talking about the child’s sleep cycle. Yes they have a sleep cycle.  The correct sleep cycle is asleep by 7-7:30pm and must get 10-12 hours sleep. Hey, I did not make this up, it is a real evidence.  Ever notice your child acting up or yawning about 7-7:30pm?  Well, they are tired.  Their days seem a lifetime compared to our days which seem to whiz right on by.

Sleep is actually the one most important things you can ever do for your child, yourself and your family. It influences their brain development, determines how they function socially, it will shift their mood to not so tolerable, it dampens their vitality, and it affects their adrenals if they are sleep deprived or even getting their 10-12 hours but going to sleep past 8pm.

If you are having a hard time getting your child to sleep by 8pm you are not alone.  That has been my biggest challenge as a parent.

Here are a few things I had to do to get my child to bed at least by 8:00pm consistently and we are still working on it.
1. Change our family lifestyle: We are now home every night by 4:00pm.  I decline a lot of fun stuff I can be doing but my child’s sleep is most important and so is mine.
2. Get the house dark by 5:30 even though it is bright as it can be outside.  Getting the house dark, having an early dinner and quite time before we read has been very helpful to the bedtime process.

3. Get him in bed at 6:30pm.  This part is taking some time.  Some nights we get him in bed by 7:00 and no later.  So far the reading time starts at 6:30 and by 7-7:30 hits he is yawning and now resting. He is not consistently asleep by 8:00pm. This does not happen every night but that has a lot to do with the rhythm of our child’s day and that’s another blog.

4. Play the imagination game. Heard from the Waldorf school that telling stories and having them imagine is very healthy for their development and it also calms the child.  So the last story is something we play, “the imagination game.”  We turn off all the lights because reading time ended.  This is how it works. It consists of him closing his eyes and laying on his back.  It starts off something like this…”Imagine you are sitting on the nice cool green grass looking over a quite still lake and once in a while a fish will jump out of the water and go down into the water with a quite splash…”  It is a really calming and soothing type of imaging that has no action, low tones, and highly meditative.  It works well for our family and he is usually tired enough to go straight to sleep.

These have been what we have done for our family and what a difference in my child!  It is much more social and talkative to other kids.  He is vibrant and the bags under his eyes has ceased.  He get his full 10-11 hours of sleep per night and wakes up bright and early enough to have a hardy breakfast and take his time getting ready for school.  His playtime has been the most creative I have ever seen him and he has improved immensely in school.

Life is not always perfect but one thing you can always do for your tot is get them to bed when their cycle says so.  There will be exceptions but keep them far and few between, especially on a school night, the teachers will thank you.


Disney Dilemma

As parents we do our best to protect our tots from traumatic media, whether in print, in person or on the computer.  These days more parents are choosing to have no television in their home to be more productive, read, enjoy more time outside, and focus on what contributes to connecting as a family. Blip news glimpses are flashed on yahoo when going into email, so it is easy to stay somewhat “in the know”.
A recent source of incongruence has been the masses of parents that are excited expose their children to Disneyland and Disney movies.  Most any adult can clearly recall the common thread theme of most of the traditional movies…an orphaned child, whose parents are killed, then adopted by a cruel step family member or is completely on their own to fend for themselves.  Just think of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, Lion King and Saving Nemo….you get the picture. Watching these movies, in essence with the same message with different characters, can contribute to impact an impressionable child’s belief system and even cause fear of something similar happening to them or their parents.  One of my dear friends grown son’s confessed he was afraid most of childhood that he would become an orphan, because of the traumatic Disney movies he watched as a child.
Now if the main character is a girl, they have to be beautiful to be rescued by a prince charming in order to have happiness or live Happily Ever After.  These movies impact young girls. First they want to dress up like the princess and after watching different movies with the same theme several times, the “save yourself by marrying a Handsome Prince” message is successfully planted.   By the time these girls are young adolescents they could be subconsciously keeping an eye out for the Handsome Prince to ensure their life is happy or perhaps to off to run if life isn’t always smooth in the home.
Parents likely don’t want to share such messages with their Little One, but it cleverly happens through the Disney movies, books, costumes, and theme park.  The use of media, print and a live experience with the same characters results in very effective brainwashing.  Why are these types of dark trauma filled movies marketed to young children?  As for an amusement park to call itself “The Happiest Place on Earth” that is built on heavy tragedies within the famous stories, feels very contradictory.  As adults we all know that no person or thing is going to make us eternally happy. “Happily Ever After” resides in our hearts and our children benefit from knowing the truth.

What’s with Baby Talk?

Ever since having a child, have you noticed an interest in magnifying your choice of words?  It can be so tempting to bequeath the societal and generational “baby words” or expressions and at the same time feel obsessive making the effort to refrain from them. When my tot was nearly 6 months, a chiropractor friend highly recommended that I check into the books and courses developed by The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, in Pennsylvania.  I reviewed their website and watched the posted YouTube videos of Glenn Doman, the Founder of IAHP.  It was brought to my attention that I could speak to my child with specific and useful words, rather than patronizing infantile language used by adults when in communication with children.

Expressions including:
“Do you have an ‘owey’?”
“Put that down! That’s ‘yucky’.”
“Ewww….that’s ‘icky’!”
“Look at the bow wow.”
are the types of phrases that would be considered laughable and patronizing if used in communication with another adult.  Yet, I vividly recall them being used in my childhood and I still hear overhear such talk being used wherever children are present.  Before you know it,  a child will soon imitate and refer to things as “owey” ,”ewww”, “yucky”, “icky”, etc., etc., until they realize the truth.  They will quickly observe that adults don’t talk this way to each other and that adults only talk this way only to children.  Children realize they are being patronized.  If you were learning a foreign language, it’s doubtful you would first want to be taught baby words, animal sounds and incomplete sentences, before you learned correct and proper vocabulary and sentence structure.

Even if a baby isn’t yet talking, we all know the brain grows the fastest before 5 years of age and they absorb everything. So, teaching a child these types of general phrases and names will eventually compromises effective communication. Secondly, using these types of phrases and words may seem cute or the most effective way to communicate to a non-verbal or newly verbal child, but all it does is disregard their magnificence and demonstrates a parents lack of confidence in a child’s ability to pronounce and understand words such as train (choo choo) or cat (meow meow). Doesn’t it seem that this type of adult initiated conversation does anything but support or guide a child’s ability to learn, practice, express and accurately understand a vast vocabulary, not to mention create a baby talk habit for the parent?

Here are some options to consider:
– Instead of saying, “Oooh, you have an owie!”
Option: “You have an abrasion or contusion or a cut, etc.”
(This one has the most importance. If a child isn’t feeling well and he knows is “owie”, he won’t know how to convey he has an ache, cramp, or contusion.)
– Instead of saying, “That’s icky!”                                                                    Option: “That may have bacteria or pathogens.  Touching that could result in a stomachache.”

– Instead of saying, “Ewww, don’t eat the food you dropped on the dirty ground!  Yucky!!!!”
Option: “Do you see the dirt on the sidewalk?  Please put the food that fell on the sidewalk into trash can.”

Instead of saying:  “Your face is so dirty!  What a messy eater!”
Option: You have some avocado on your chin. Here is your napkin.

Instead of saying:  “Oh, look at the bow wow! What a nice doggie.”
Option: “There is a Golden Retriever (or St. Bernard, Chihuahua, etc.)!” He is really running fast.”

Instead of saying, “More num-num?”
Option: “Would you like more soup?”

Instead of saying, “Here’s your ba-ba.”
Option: “Here is your bottle.”

This is fun and definitely keeps the Mommy brain in creative mode. When noticing the overuse of, “Would you like to help?”,  how about switching to “Would you like to assist?”, then “Would you like to support?”, etc?
The trusty thesaurus can come in handy again, since tots absolutely love learning and find using new words fun and interesting.

Lessons we Learn by Being Parents

As I watched parents related to their children, it came to me how we as parents learn so much from our children.  Oh the lessons I have within the toddler years of my son’s life.  From the birth of “me not being ready,” till now has been quite the adventure.

Here are a few things that stick out for me and I am sure for other parents too.

1. Our child is a mirror image of us.  I have never seen myself before “act up” until I have seen my son in action.  Really brings me back to seeing how I am being with him and other people, especially when things do not go my way.  How I shifted my behavior is to recognize what my son was doing, then be aware of my actions and the next time things were not going my way, how I acted out the same way as my son.  To pause and recognize what is going one with my son and then with me is a big lesson and tough to do.  What works for me is taking a deep breath and shifting my energy, and choosing other words that are as a matter of fact.  Now I do not do that every time as this is a practice and I am not being an example to my son to deal with tough situations differently.  Another great method is recognizing my behavior toward my son and journal it. This allows me to learn how I can shift to serve my son.

2. Patience.  Having a child challenges me with patience.  Instead of yelling at him, which he NEVER deserves. Learning patience is the healthier choice. If a babysitter is late, and it is my biggest pet peeve if someone is 10 minutes late or more, now I just accept that this is happening, re-manage my schedule and have a talk with the babysitter and if it happens again, I find someone else to watch my son.  When my son spills something, my reaction is “great! would you like to help me clean it up?”  I love being on time and when I am not I usually get really anxious, now if my son is refusing and we are having a time getting him in the car, I go with it and breath, wait a few more minutes and then ask him again if he will get in his seat.  I add respect to him by my tone of voice.

3. My child is me.  This weekend I can see how my unhappiness affects my child.  When my smile is not apparent, then his is not either.  Ouch that hurts.  A parent’s emotional stability completely determines the child’s.  One Mom I know is very calm and articulate and so is her 2 year old son.  Learning to watch my emotional imbalances and how I handle situations; calmly or anxiously or do I break down.  Some times I do all three.  To balance myself as a parent, I sit in a quite place and meditate for 10-30 minutes 4 days a week.  Exercise helps tremendously, I personally choose weight training and tennis.  Then journaling before going to bed works well to get all those childish emotions out.  The trick is during an upset, what do we do as parents so we teach our children who are watching us?  If we remember, we can react then breath, breath again and figure out how we want to handle the situation and even involve our children to help and participate so they can learn.

For example, the other day my son and I get into the car and the car wont start.  We had a full day planned and I freaked out.  Then realizing my son was with me, I made a few phone calls.  Then told him the situation and he asked me to pop the hood and took a look to see if he can fix it.  We ended up making calls the entire morning and went back in the house to eat lunch and hang out a bit then AAA was the last solution and rescheduling my plans for the day was what ended up happening.  It did not matter at the end of the day as I still got quality time with my son and by me handling a situation that is stressful for me, he got to learn that this does not have to be stressful.

Life is about learning and developing, as a parent I am and will always be learning how best to raise my child.  Having children I like to say is a lifetime personal development course as our children are teaching us more about ourselves than we could ever learned if we did not have children.

Images of Europe from Chimmy

The Tot’s Cafe has finally heard from Chimmy on his travels to Europe.  He has sent these two images of a country in Europe.  He has already visited a few cities in this country but he is staying in this city on the coast (picture above).  He will send some pictures of other more popular spots soon as he has not ventured into the more larger cities yet.

Sent directly from Chimmy: ” The weather here is excellent as I am traveling in the summer months.  I have learned a lot about their language and culture.  Did you know that this country has the second largest economy of all Europe and is the most visited country in the world, receiving 82 million foreign tourists per year.  I really do love it here, even though I have not met any monkeys.  The food is exquisite and the espresso is to die for, if you are into that.  Well I am off to see other cities in this stylish and cultural rich country.”

Chimmy Sent This Image to Us Too

I know this game can get quite tough if we have never visited this spot before or even been to Europe, so do your best and you are always welcomed to conduct research.

Tell us where in Europe Chimmy is visiting and win a Free Book, “Chimmy Travels to Europe” written by Patricia Paigerac.

We will be awarding people at the end of this month and the one with the most correct guesses will win!  There can be more than one winner. 

Submit your guess by posting a reply to this blog or on the post on our Facebook Page.
When you get to The Tot’s Cafe Facebook Page, please Like Us.

Love, Food and Being Present

Love, presence and food are words that enter my mind when I think about important factors in raising my five year old son, Canyon.

Love. I have learned in my adulthood, the more love I receive, the easier it is to receive and give back and beyond. And that gift of being loved, and being able to love, will put anyone in the place of or on the path to personal freedom, or personal truth. I often find myself singing the Beatles tune, “All you need is love…bahm, bahm, budda-ba,” and I get it. Love is the important gift we give our children (and every person in every relationship we have).

Presence. Talking to and treating Canyon like a friend helps me stay present to him.  I think about creative things that I would do in my free time, like paint, cook, plant the garden, or build things with hammers and power tools, and I include my son.   I joke around with him, foolishly sing and dance in front of him, and ask his advice on what ingredients to add to a meal we’re creating. Most importantly, I respect him. I do my best to stay present to his emotions and treat him the way I want to be treated. When I mess up, I am quick to apologize and explain where I was at that moment and why I was wrong. At five, he already has impressive communication skills (his life partner will thank me for that!). When negative emotions take over his being, he gets quiet time in a comfy space for yelling, his favorite toy of the week taken away for a day or more (depending on the severity of this crime), or the most devastating to him- a day without friends his own age, if he does one of those things that makes me say, “Who are you and what have you done with my son?” If it’s one of those days, we work together on not-so-fun projects, like pulling weeds or cleaning out and organizing his desk, and we use that time to discuss life (and I try to make the work fun so he has a healthy relationship to his future chores). I recently figured out that I can stop a tantrum or extreme frustration. When I recognize that something is stirring, I get on my knees, look in his eyes, and state kindly, but firmly, “Okay, this is the point where you make the choice to have a good moment or a bad moment,” and then I follow with an example of what each choice will look like, and what each choice will bring to him and the people around him.

Food. This is the topic I get in trouble for because of my passion for and understanding of it. I’ve learned to curb my passion to want to educate every person I talk to. Now I understand not everyone wants to hear it, wants to change, or agrees with what I am saying. To me, the concept is simple.  Eat food that grows in the earth that is not treated with chemicals. I have so much to say about this from a health and environmental point, that I can probably write a book about it, so I’ll keep it at that simple statement.  My family eats, almost always, organic and gluten free. However, for us, if we don’t bend, we break, so if we are dining out or at someone’s house, we gladly enjoy what is served to us.

To have creative solutions to problems or potential problems, and to love and be loved and to respect and be respected, are the ingredients my family uses to create our happy environment.  I never forget to look at myself to examine what part I play in an uncomfortable situation and I ask the same of the people I surround myself with. When I am content and free, I am a better mother, wife, and friend. I model that to my family, and they do the same for me.

Stacey Gates, The Tot’s Cafe’s Spotlight Mom

An Environment That Grounds Our Children

How do we create a home environment and lifestyle that grounds our children?

Not grounding in the sense of “you are in big trouble mister,” but one that supports them in being stable children.

To develop and create stable, balanced and grounded children has to do with finding a balance considering the endless options of stimulating toys piled high in aisles of stores and visual distractions such as games and television.  Most adults are immune to these things and yet these same things strongly capture the attention of our tots. Only we can observe and determine if these things will contribute our precious children’s well-being, if they are neutral or harmful.

The way I’ve chosen to ground myself and my child has been through creating an environment that supports our daily lifestyle. Since birth, I have determined that my daughter and I benefit the most from minimal distractions around the house. As two years of her life have quickly flown by, I still observe that we are benefiting. This became especially apparent as of last year when I attended a 7 day course on how to teach you baby from birth to 2 years of age reading, math, encyclopedic knowledge, physical program, foreign language, and music program.  Early this month I returned to the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia to complete a 5 day graduate course that teaches parents how to advance the curriculum for children 2-4 years of age, plus introduce writing and independent reading. I see that the success and evolution of the teaching program, since we started last year, is not solely due to me being consistent and in tune with what topics my daughter enjoys. It would not be possible to teach my 2 year old daughter very much if I had to compete with the distraction of a stimulating television or more than a few dolls in the house. The rest of her toys are in the car piled in box near her car seat and the ones that I don’t want her to have are given away.  Most people know that the gifts she would use most are clothes or more teaching materials.

With a only few dolls and one musical DVD that she occasionally enjoys singing to, she is absolutely never bored. What I notice is that she is easily entertained with drawing, reading books, and listening to music and foreign language audios that we do together and in between our teaching time and physical fitness program. When I go to friends and family’s homes or mommy/baby events, there will be an array of toys and she will stay very busy with them.  Seeing this just makes it more clear, considering what I observe that keeps her grounded, that these things are better kept out of the house and she can experience them elsewhere. I see that my daughter is most grounded when she is listening to music, playing her percussion instruments, dancing, experiencing nature, and expressing curiosity and interest in the topics she chooses for me to teach her. I’m also more grounded because I’m doing things, rather than scheduling myself around a certain TV show, which I did years prior to my daughter’s birth. This feeling of balance and groundedness is all as a result of the environment I created that supports our lifestyle.

Yes, encouraging and supporting our children to be grounded in a world that’s abundant with environmental stimulation most everywhere is an interesting topic, because it will vary from one family to another. As parents, only we can effectively determine what is an optimal grounding environment for our children and how to create it based on the unique lifestyle we desire for ourselves and our tots for years to come.

This is aside from the bombardment of EMF frequencies from the cell phone towers, wireless networks and the challenge of keeping the little ones a safe distance from the computer, ipad and cell phone, which is a whole different topic for another time.