Put away the phone & play!

dad and babyAs I’ve mentioned in other posts, having some meaningful playtime with your little one can go a long way to improve their development.

Like me, I’m sure that you are guilty of sometimes pulling out your phone during playtime to check on work emails. An article I read this past week was a great reminder that this can be a distraction for both me and my little one.

A recent study from @indianauniv with 1-year-old’s is the first to show “a direct connection between how long a caregiver looks at an object and how long an infant’s attention remains focused on that same object”. This is super important because sustain attention is known as a strong indicator for later success in areas such as language acquisition and problem-solving.

Here’s the Main Dish: 

  • The researchers used head-mounted eye tracking to record parent and child eye-gazes during a “free play” session in a daycare or home like setting
  • Caregivers fell into two major groups: those who let the infants direct the course of their play and those who attempted to forcefully guide the infants’ interest toward specific toys.
  • The caregivers who were most successful at maintaining their children’s attention were those who “were sensitive to their child’s interest” and “let the child lead.” These parents didn’t need to try to redirect where the children were looking.

What This Means for You: 

  • To engage in meaningful playtime when your down on the floor with your little one, try not to sit back and not play along, or simply look elsewhere (like at your smart phone!). Put away that phone….even if it’s just for 15 minutes!
  • Lead your little one take the lead when playing with toys! If you put out a few different toys for them to pick from, see which one they go to first and then play away (e.g., start telling them what it is, what color it is, what sound it makes, etc.).

Happy Playing!


Honoring little artists

Art adviceWe all have those piles of art that come home from school sitting somewhere in our homes. That is of course unless you have discovered a way to display and organize your little one’s creations in a way that works well for your family (more on this later).

At our house we developed a system that we only keep and display art that is either meaningful to our little one or to us as parents (e.g., like hand prints that have been turned into flowers capturing that time when her hand were so tiny). However, I’m still faced with a pile of art that keeps growing and growing!

In looking online for ways to categorize children’s art, I came across some classroom management suggestions that share why it’s important to display children’s art in the first place along with some tips.

Here’s the Main Dish & What This Means for You:

  • The message it sends to your children. As parents, we value what you have created. This is their home as much as yours.
  • Give your child a say. It’s respectful to check with your little one which pieces they are comfortable putting on display. This shows respect for them as it sends the message that their opinion is valued.
  • Give each child their own space. If you can, create a display area for each of your children and let them each decide what to display.
  • Less is more. Covering every possible pieces of art will make any space cluttered and overstimulating. Leave a good amount of wall space bare and art pieces if you’d like.
  • Put it as close to eye level—the children’s eye level. Whenever possible, put displays close to children’s eye level. They may quickly learn to ignore displays above their heads.

I am still in search of the best way to keep the art after it’s been on display. Do I recycle them? Is there a great app I can use?

What’s your best advice? 

Where did that question come from?

The Limbic Reward System lights up when curiosity is piqued. (LA Johnson/NPR)

The Limbic Reward System lights up when curiosity is piqued. (LA Johnson/NPR)

This week has been filled with lots of questions for me, many of which have come from my preschooler. I’m noticing that the nature of her questions are changing, even when she is playing the game “20 Questions” with her Dad. A favorite was when she recently asked “Mama, who owns the city?” while we were driving around town. This prompted quite the discussion about mayors in our region!

Coincidentally, within a day of that car conversation I saw a great article link on Facebook to a post about “What’s Going on Inside the Brain of a Curious Child?“. Guess what? My curiosity was peaked and I started to do some reading.

Here’s the Main Dish:

  • Our brain chemistry changes when we become curious, helping us better learn and retain information.
  • In a study, when participants’ curiosity was piqued, the parts of their brains that regulate pleasure and reward lit up. Curious minds also showed increased activity in the hippocampus, which is involved in the creation of memories.
  • When the circuit (the one that is linked to pleasure & rewards) is activated, our brains release a chemical called dopamine which gives us a high.
  • Dopamine also seems to play a role in enhancing the connections between cells that are involved in learning. We tend to remember more when our curiosity is peaked!

What does this mean for you? 

  • Be encouraging when your child is asking questions, even if that means having to answer the “why” question over and over again!
  • Ask questions aloud yourself in front of your child to demonstrate what it means to be curious. For example, “I wonder why Jack is feeling that way today?”
  • When trying to teach your child something new, try and make a connection to something they are interested in.

Dear Sleep

DearDear Sleep,

How I miss you! We had a nice long get together on the weekend but we haven’t spent enough time together since. I promise to make more than 6 hours for you soon and to try to ensure that my little one gets to know you well too. I know you’re important for her future academic achievement, but you’re also important for my own mental well-being.




Here’s a recent Canadian study (!) that has contributed to our knowledge about the connection between sleep and performance at school:

The Main Dish: 

  • Researchers from McGill University and the Riverside School Board in Montreal created a sleep education program that involved experiential learning for 7- to 11-year-olds.
  • This provided students with skills needed for real-world success by addressing real-world problems and situations through teacher directed and facilitated learning. For example, students learned that their bedrooms needed to be calm environments to allow them to get a better night’s sleep.
  • The researchers evaluated the program using objective sleep measures and report card grades.
  • Children’s sleep and academic performance improved following participation in the program. Specifically, increases in sleep by 91 mins (18.2 mins over 5 days) was associated with improved report card grades in English and Mathematics.

What does this mean for you? 

  • It’s important for children to get their sleep behaviours “right” early on. Some tips on what this means “in action” include:
    • Include a 30 minute winding down period before bedtime
    • Do your best to stick to a consistent bedtime, even on weekends.
    • Make the bedroom quiet, cozy, and perfect for sleeping.Tuck your child into bed snugly for a feeling of security.
  • We should do as much as we can to ensure that children are getting a sufficient amount of healthy sleep every night. This means (according to Kidshealth.org)
    • Toddlers (1-3 years): 12-14 hours (including naps)
    • Preschoolers (3-5 years): 11-12 hours (including naps)
    • School Age to Preteens (5-12 years): 10 -12 hours
    • Teens (13 years +): 9 hours

Kindergarten Prep

Photo credit: steadyhealth.com

Photo credit: steadyhealth.com

In a class we attended last weekend, there was lots of parent chit chat about which of our little ones will be attending Kindergarten in the fall. This made me think of a study was published last month.

A team from the John Hopkins School of Nursing found that “children who enter kindergarten behind in social-behavioral development are more likely to be held back, need more individualized supports and services, and be suspended or expelled”.

Here’s the Main Dish: 

  • The study examined the relationship between kindergarteners’ social-behavioral readiness and key educational outcomes in over 9,000 (!) elementary school students.
  • Social-behavioral readiness include children’s abilities to process, label and respond to their own and other people’s emotions, to attend to tasks, shift attention in response to expectations, inhibit socially inappropriate responses, and process, remember and use information; and to manage emotions such as frustration, anger, and stress. All of these skills are related to each other. For example, in order to comply with a classroom rule of “cleaning up when the lights are flickered”, children need to process and remember the rule, attend to the rules at the appropriate time (i.e., when the lights are flickered on and off”, and manage negative emotions they might experience in response to the rules (e.g., “I want to keep playing with these cars, not clean up!”).
  • By the time they reached 4th grade, students who were considered socially and behaviorally “not ready” for school were:
    • Up to 80% more likely to be retained in their grade
    • Up to 80% more likely to receive services and supports through an individualized education plan
    • Up to 7 times more likely to be suspended or expelled at least once
    • Boys were also more likely to be assessed as not socially and behaviorally ready in kindergarten and to experience all three academic difficulties.
What does this mean for you? 
Here are some things you may consider to help ensure that your little one is ready for kindergarten and/or Grade 1:
  • Have your bebe spend time either in preschool, daycare, classes and/or with various relatives or friends away from you (the parents) before they start school. There will be many benefits, but one important one is getting used to being in a situation away from you and your partner. It will also provide an opportunity to interact with other children.
  • Create situations where your bebe hears, understands and follows simple directions. This could range from putting away a toy to helping to set the table.
  • Talk, play, repeat! Talking and playing with your bebe in concentrated chunks of time (think 15 minutes without any checking of email or facebook) has so many benefits.

Nuit: Happiness

Photo Credit: Camdiluv ♥

Photo Credit: Camdiluv ♥

“We are all working on ‘life’, aren’t we?” – Amanda Weber

With Amanda as our guide, we’ll engage a session on getting good at emotional stress. It’s fun, interactive and Amanda says it always provides a few ‘aha moments’. The session will include a chocolate tasting meditation which most people love (chocolate = happiness right?! :).    In addition she will make sure there are tangible outcomes – tools each of us can integrate into our lives to help us feel happier and healthier beyond the session.

What to learn more before you say yes? Check out Amanda’s Wisdom Workout from this week. It includes a short video on managing our tendency to worry.

The cost will be finalized once we know how many Mamans will be able to attend.

The range will be between $30-$40.

To purchase your tickets, follow this link: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/nuit-happiness-tickets-24323082996

Nuit: Gourmet

Have you ever wanted to learn how to make your own artisan bread at home? Are you looking for a new item for your kitchen or a gift? Join us for an evening at Relish Cooking Studio for their “Artisan Bread and Olive Oil Experience” followed by a private shopping event.

First, we will find out the tricks to making a loaf of delicious artisan bread. And what better to taste it with than artisan olive oil? We will learn the truth behind the mystifying world of olive oil, what makes a good one, and how to cook or dress food with it.

Next, we will have the opportunity to shop at Relish’s “kitchen boutique” with a special discount for our group. Even if you just browse, Relish’s Donna-Marie and Maria can help you decipher the often difficult decisions when trying to choose kitchen cookware, tools and accessories.

We’ll provide the intimate setting, great food & drink and company you’ll have lots in common with.

Intimate Setting: Relish Cooking Studio is the beautiful dream kitchen of fellow Mamans Donna-Marie Pye (cookbook author) and Maria Burjoski (culinary enthusiast). In addition to offering classes, Relish carries a fineselection of kitchen and entertaining housewares. Donna-Marie and Maria have stocked the store with items they love to use. From beautiful tableware and top-quality linens to superior accessories and a fine selection of cookbooks, these must-haves for stylish entertaining are sure to inspire you.

Great Food & Drink: While learning about (and sampling) artisan bread and olive oil, we will also be enjoying local cheese and charcuterie. Dessert will be a special treat that we’ll receive the recipe for. If you desire, you’ll be able to recreate the magic at home! All vino, drinks & food included.

Company: Other KW Mamans who, like you, are professionals that are looking for a new type of “Mommy Group”.

To purchase your tickets, follow this link: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/nuit-gourmet-tickets-10919300923

Nuit: Radiate – The Recap

Last night’s Nuit/Night Out was packed full of great info & tips for making our skin radiate!

Front of store

We were well hydrated – important for radiant skin!

In the warm setting of The Truth Beauty Company we learned so much from owner Jennifer. She expertly taught us how to apply make-up and gave us great suggestions for ways to keep our skin healthy. For example, why not wash off your make-up when you get home each day instead of right before bed?

We also learned how to make an easy (and delicious smelling) DIY scrub. Here are the 3 simple ingredients you mix together and apply with a little water:

2 tablespoons ground coffee

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons honey

Special thanks to the Princess Cafe for the delicious treats we snacked on during the evening.

truth beauty table

There are so many great products at The Truth Beauty Company – even locally make chocolate bars!

Be sure to check out The Truth Beauty Company, as well as the cafe, next time you are in Uptown Waterloo! It will be worth the visit.