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?


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.


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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.


Well Put Together

FequitaGuestBlogWelcome 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!

Today I took my three-year-old to play group. While watching her play ‘grocery store’ with her bestie I engaged in casual conversation with another parent whose son was immersed in fire trucks. I asked her if she had any more children. She lightheartedly responded, “I have just the one, and I can barely keep up with him.” When she asked me, “So do you have just the one?” I responded almost in automation to this question I’ve answered a million times, “I have four: ages 18, 10, 6 and 3.” Her eyes immediately widened to full capacity as she said, “You look so well put together!” In the moment I awkwardly laughed it off saying, “Thank you, I guess.”

Why did she see me as well put together? And as I am a mother of four—what have I figured out that has made a difference? There are certainly complications and hardships that come with raising several children. You have more personalities to manage and more schedules to keep up with, but it’s definitely manageable. Each parent has to come up with a system that works for the needs of their particular family. Here are a few general tips that work for my family.

1. Preparation and Consistency: Make a plan and stick to it. Make a schedule for all the things that must happen on a daily basis. It may seem a bit tedious to schedule what days to wash clothes, clean the bathroom, when to take baths and plan a dinner menu. However, with the hustle and bustle of a large family, it’s easy to overlook something and once you do it will be overwhelming to catch back up.

2. Get Everyone Involved: Encourage everyone to participate in the functioning of your household. My 3-year-old has chores just like the older ones do. My older children read the younger children bedtime stories. Children actually love to help out and it builds a great bond between siblings.

3. Roll with the punches: This is the most important rule. In a large family, there are too many variables to expect everything to run smoothly all the time. So learn to be okay with change. Every day there will be something that will not go as expected. And with each unexpected situation just improvise, adapt and overcome.

So if there is a mother out there, whether you have several children or just one, and you are feeling overwhelmed, give these tips a try. I hope they work for your family.

-Fequita


Give Your Kids a Piece of Yourself

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In this guest post, 4C Parent Services Specialist Dan Scheiman shares a reflection on fatherhood.

“Noble fathers have noble children.” -Euripides

When it comes to fatherhood, the above quote seems to say it all.

Be noble. Be honest. Be kind. And, maybe most of all, be present in your child’s life.

The first few on the list are actually easy. Treat your kids the way you want to be treated and in the way you want your kids to be treated by everyone they encounter. Be the measure that your children hold everyone they know up to and then be the one they feel safe enough to come to when things get tough and their heads fill with questions.

Being present is the tricky one. Things like work can get in the way. Life in general can get in the way and, something I can relate to, divorce can get in the way. So, at some point, every dad and every parent for that matter, has looked at their watch or even a calendar and wondered if they’ve made enough time for their kids.

But, here’s where that whole being noble, kind and honest thing comes in. For those times when despite your best efforts, you can’t physically be there, give your kids a big piece of yourself to carry with them and the confidence in you to know that you’re never too far away.

My dad passed away a few weeks ago so he is no longer physically present in my life and, while I could look to the things he didn’t do, the things he missed or left to my mom, I’d rather celebrate how he taught me to be honest, to be kind, and how to treat others, which by the way, had a lot to do with how he treated my mom. Those lessons became a guide for me through my life and through my divorce. 

I can’t count the number of times I have tormented my now nineteen-year-old son with “You’re…umm…ok after the stuff with your mom and I…yeah…umm…I mean the divorce?” The first few times were, to say the least, awkward, but we talked a lot and, after talking a lot, his responses have become, “Dad, geez, I’m fine. I talked to mom the other day; she’s good and says hi. Can we grab some Chipotle?”

My son has been home but will be heading back to college soon and, while I’ll miss him and worry from time to time, I know he has that piece of me with him. So, even with him hundreds of miles away, he knows I’m there which, regardless of the distance, always makes me present in his life.

All of this can be downright scary, believe me, I know, so here’s another quote to inspire you.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Parenting is a mighty high staircase to climb. Do it one step at a time. Have faith in yourself and your kids to do what’s right.


No Halloween! What’s the big deal?

Parents are sometimes surprised to learn that their child care program doesn’t celebrate Halloween. Why won’t they allow costumes and let the kids have some fun, they wonder. Are these child care providers spoil-sports, or are there good reasons for their policy?

While not the biggest issue in early childhood these days, consider this: Halloween can be very frightening to children under 5. While costumes and make-believe are fun for older children and adults, this can be downright scary for younger children who can’t yet separate fantasy from reality.

Though Halloween is widely accepted as a secular activity by most, it does conflict with the religious beliefs of some families. So programs are being respectful of the diversity of the families they serve when they limit celebration of holidays to those that are strictly secular.

If your program is one that chooses to celebrate Halloween, consider discussing with the director or caregiver how he or she will take steps to avoid frightening experiences. One simple precaution is to not allow masks and to keep costumes limited to simple dress-up items.  Better yet, consider a no-Halloween policy!

This blog post was originally published in October 2009 by Elaine Ward, Senior Vice President/COO, 4C for Children.