Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


Dinner Woes

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Welcome to our special guest-blogger: Fequita Simmons! Fequita and her daughter attend 4C Play & Learn groups. Thank you to Fequita for sharing this story with us!

I have a confession to make: I do not enjoy cooking. I know it’s one of the basic acts of love for many people, however to me spending hours in a hot kitchen is torture. Needless to say, preparing meals for my family of six is a daily struggle. I never take meat out in time to thaw. I can never find a day to meal prep for the week. The meals I do make taste good to the family but because I loathe cooking I invest as little energy into it as possible. But I am a solutions-oriented person and I have come across a website that has become the holy grail of cooking in my home: theseasonedmom.com.

On this website, I found easy delicious meals that don’t have weird ingredients and do not take a lot of time to make. According to the site creator Blair, “I developed simple strategies in the kitchen to create easy weeknight dinners that all of my kids would actually eat.” I’ve been using her website for a few months now and I have become the Queen of Dinner! My favorite recipes are the Dump and Bake recipes. I’ve signed up for her weekly email where she easily details meal ideas for the week.

Through using recipes from The Seasoned Mom I learned I was not efficient in the kitchen before and it was the time I was spending in the kitchen to prepare meals that I disliked, not that act of cooking itself. Now when I sit down at the dinner table with my family I’m not exhausted from the cooking process. I am I serving a meal I am proud of and sitting down at the dinner table with positive energy.

Sometimes it helps to take a step back and consider a new perspective on something that you dread doing. What are your go-to websites that help make your day-to-day family life a little easier?


Vacationing With Young Children

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I only remember having one family vacation as a child growing up and that memory has stuck with me my entire life. We went on a camping trip all over Ohio. As a family, we want to give our children the same experiences and memories. We had reservations at first of how our children would react to sitting, traveling, restlessness, and a tight environment. We wondered what to do or where to go. We worried about all the stuff that we would have to pack, carry, and repack. We set all this aside and focused on the experience rather than the barriers.

We recently traveled by car to Florida for a 10-day family vacation. I had prepared for a “National Lampoons Vacation” to Walley World in my mind, but honestly, it was a great experience that brought our family closer together. We simply wanted to get away and get to the beach. Our two children enjoy playing in the sandbox at home, so the beach seemed like a perfect destination. The look on my son’s face was priceless when he saw more sand than he could have ever imagined or move with his little dump truck. I thought they would enjoy the ocean, but surprisingly they both were not interested. We went on a boat ride and my son pointed out and saw the “fishes” (dolphins). My son did not want to leave the Daytona International Speedway with all of the cars. The gift shop was positioned well near the exit and was difficult to leave. We tried different foods, especially fresh seafood, which is difficult to find in Ohio. While at dinner, we experienced a bird “pirate” some fresh french fries from a neighboring table.

In the beginning, I saw the difficulties. The drive, how the family with two children would all sleep in one room, what we would do and where we would go and eat were all problems in my mind. In reality, I was surprised about how our children were up to the challenge and so much more. I am so blessed to have children who love to “do.” They will do anything, try anything, and seem to enjoy so many things. They are sponges and I love watching them soak up as much experience as we can share as a family. It will be these memories that will last their lifetime.


Summer Fun on a Budget

family-summer-funWelcome to our special guest-blogger: Fequita Simmons! Fequita and her daughter attend 4C Play & Learn groups. Thank you to Fequita for sharing this story with us!

The end of the school year is always an exciting time. My children are bubbling with joy at the prospects of not having to be in school all day and the possibilities of going to bed late at night, sleeping in in the mornings, and endless hours of video games. All the while I’m filling my head with deep cleaning the house, getting rid of old toys and clothes, summer reading programs and hours of play outside. Needless to say, my children and I are not on the same page with our summer goals.

I manage these different expectations by letting my children be part of the process. So I generally tell them the agenda for the day over breakfast. I always start with the things they must do like chores, followed by the reward or fun stuff they want to do. They will give their input on what they want to do and we come up with a plan for the day together. They get really excited and are actually eager to do the things they need to do so they can quickly get to the things they want to do.

The cost of entertaining a family of six can get expensive really quick. During the summer I like to take advantage of as many free and reduced-price options as possible. Here is a list of the ones we’ve used over the last few summers:

  1. Kids Bowl Free: This is a program where children can play two free games of bowling all summer long. There is a cost for bowling shoes. kidsbowlfree.com
  2. Visit Parks: Take advantage of parks in your area. Often times you can find hiking trails, bike paths, or basketball courts to use free of charge. Also, kids love just being outside playing. On a really creative day, we do nature walk scavenger hunts where the kids have a list of things to look for while we are at the park.
  3. Movies: Check theaters in your area for discount movie tickets. The movie normally is not a new release but kids just love theater experience. Also, check with area parks or community centers. Sometimes there is a “Movie in the Park” schedule where they show movies outside on the big screen.
  4. Visiting the Library: there is always something going on at the library. Puppet shows, story time, kids crafts, etc.


Playing With Water

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Welcome to our special guest-blogger: Anna Peloquin! Anna and her children attend 4C Play & Learn groups. Thank you to Anna for sharing this story with us!

At first, my daughter was afraid of water; every time we would put her in the tub she would cry and usually, bath time was 2 minutes or less (just enough time to wipe the soap off). But as she has grown and learned to explore the world around her she has grown to love water. Finding a muddy puddle on our rainy-day walks brings smiles to both of our faces, and I have rediscovered the joy of puddle jumping. Water is vital to our survival and an essential part of how we clean, cook, and wash our clothes. The simple actions of washing hands, pouring water from a pitcher, even drinking from an open cup are all skills that children must learn as they become more independent. But as with most child-like things these simple tasks that we take for granted can entertain and be great fun for a child (and parent!).

So one miserable, drizzly day, instead of sitting inside we put on our boots went out to play with water. We spent the whole afternoon pouring water into different containers. By the end, we were both soaked, but my daughter had learned how to pour from a pitcher and we enjoyed our day playing with water.

Items for exploration:

  • Cups or funnels of various sizes and weight (we used two plastic cups)
  • Scoops and slotted spoons (raid the kitchen drawer and see what you can find!)
  • Pitcher (lightweight and non-breakable is best) or if you don’t have a pitcher you can cut one up from an empty clean half-gallon milk jug
  • Large plastic tub or cooler to store the water in
  • Gallon of water (we just filled an empty milk jug) that was our ration and when it was gone it was gone.


Handling Feelings

feelingsFeelings. Everyone has them, and handles them differently. Our two-year-old is learning how to navigate the many feelings he has, and we are learning how to guide him. He shows happiness for his favorite toys, activities, and meals by saying things like “Yay! That’s my favorite!” with an excited look on his face. Conversely, it doesn’t take much to upset him—brother takes a toy away, he has to wear a helmet to ride his trike, he can’t play in the dishwasher, etc. This is typical of a two-year-old and also challenging to parents and siblings as far as helping manage the expressive rollercoaster the family goes on with each emotional display.

Through my time here at 4C for Children, I’ve learned a lot about how to be a responsive caregiver. Through responding with empathy and understanding rather than judgment and dismissal, I can help him learn to identify the root cause of his feelings and handle them appropriately. Having phrases such as “Oh, I see tears in your eyes and hear you crying—it looks like you’re feeling upset. I get upset when (insert situation) too” at the ready along with a hug has helped. The situation tends to diffuse faster, and he has started to use feeling words in play.

Putting this knowledge into practice isn’t always an easy task. It takes a fair amount of energy and patience to respond calmly several times in a short time span. I don’t know many parents who have a surplus of energy and patience—I know I certainly don’t! This is why it is even more important to take time for ourselves as parents. We cannot give our best to our children when we don’t get what we need. I try to get as much rest as I can and have found some deep breathing strategies to help me keep myself in a better state to put my knowledge into practice. One of the best ways to support children’s emotional development is to first support our own.


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Learning Through Play With Sensory Bins

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Welcome to our special guest-blogger: Allison Schultz! Allison and her children attend 4C Play & Learn groups. Thank you to Allison for sharing this story with us!

I’ve used sensory bins sporadically over the years—a tub of rocks for construction trucks, colorful shape buttons with dried beans for shape recognition—but it’s never been part of our daily rhythm. That’s my goal with these large sensory bins. I want to integrate them into our everyday activities. Sensory bins are a great tool for emotional regulation. If a child is overstimulated, moving their hands through something that is smooth, heavy, and cool to the touch can be a very calming and soothing experience. Adding in a simple activity can contribute to the grounding effect and also help children focus. My hope is to have sensory bin time throughout the day if my kids are getting overly wound up, whiny or grumpy, before nap time to wind down, and even as an alternative to time-out. I plan to switch out the theme and contents regularly to keep them engaged and also mix in other benefits, such as practice with scooping and pouring or learning about a particular topic.

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Our current setup has my four-year-old and seven-month-old sitting across from each other with their boxes in between them. There’s a large, outdoor table cloth under both boys and their boxes to contain the mess. I chose short and wide tubs to create a large play area that is also low enough for my baby to reach. Each box is based on a book.

My four-year-old’s is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault for some extra letter practice. We made a coconut tree out of cans from our recycling bin and green fabric from a giant bag we no longer needed. I painted the cans brown, hot glued them together, cut the leaves out of the fabric, and hot glued those to the top. I added in our set of magnetic letters and a handful of acorns to serve as coconuts and voila! One of my favorite things about sensory boxes is repurposing items that would otherwise be trash or clutter. The giant bag was a gift wrap bag from Amazon; it covered a trampoline from my dad last Christmas and it was on its way to the trash after being stored for a year. The cans were obviously about to be recycled.  And the acorns had been sitting around in a jar after being picked up at the park by my son this fall. No, we’re not saving the earth one sensory box at a time, but I’d like to believe it also teaches the value of reducing waste and using what you already have!

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My seven-month-old’s box is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I made more leaves from the same bag for the filler. It’s hard to find a filler that’s safe enough for babies, but fabric is usually a good option. We happened to have a pull along toy caterpillar that I put in, but closely supervise as it has a string attached. We also had a caterpillar magnifying glass I added; I guess we’re big Eric Carle fans! We have this great pretend food set from Learning Resources, so I chose a couple items in each color, some that matched the book, some that were just good for a baby to grab. I put in one of the baskets, as he’s at a good age for putting things in and out of containers. And lastly I put our small board book in.

Both boxes have been a huge hit! We’ve hidden letters in the rice and looked for them by name or by a word that begins with it. He has come up with games on his own, making them hide from a storm in the rice or telling each other to run up the tree. The caterpillar box is easy to transport as it’s not messy, so I’ve plopped it down in other rooms when I’ve needed to get a chore done. My oldest has requested sensory time often and they both enjoying sitting with each other, doing it as a shared activity.


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Help Them Help Themselves

put-on-shoesThe classic parenting struggle: we need to get out the door and on with our day, but your child is this. close. to putting their jacket on by themselves for the first time. Of course, you can insert a variety of skills—putting shoes on, pulling pants up, zipping their coat, etc. These last moments before success seem to be stretching beyond the limits of time. Your child continues to try and try again. What do you do as a parent? I’ll tell you what I do too often: do it for them and get on with our day.

More recently, our two-and-a-half-year-old has been excited about his developing skills. He sees himself as capable and wants to try to dress himself. He lets us know this by saying, “I DO IT!” with a look on his face that tells us he means business. This newfound attitude has made me stop and think about how I’m supporting him in learning these skills, while also considering the realities of our day.

Morning time during the work week isn’t the best in our house for learning new skills. We have “places to go and people to see” as my parents would say. Knowing how important it is for children to develop these self-help skills and build confidence in trying new things, I took a conscious look at what we could do at home to accommodate this. For us, evenings work out much better. When we arrive home, we can practice with jackets and shoes. As it turns out, this is much more fun for our youngest when his big brother helps to show him. When it is time to put on pajamas for bed, we can practice dressing and undressing skills. The boys have fun seeing who can finish first, even though they are both always declared the winner—our oldest says, “I know I won for real but he can win too because he’s little,” which melts my heart. We make sure to start early before everyone is too tired and provide encouragement along the way.

As these skills are practiced and further developed, they’ll make their debut into our morning routine. I’m anxiously awaiting the day both boys can get themselves ready for the day without my help. Until then, we’ll keep practicing!