Thursday, September 30, 2010


Because parents deserve something for free. Ha! Did you like that tagline?! (P.S. you don't have to be a parent to enter.)

Get excited- it’s Avant Garde Parenting’s very first giveaway!!! Liz at Sweet Simplicity Designs is giving away

One Free Custom Photo Card Design PLUS 25 (5 x 7)
Free Prints (of the same design)

Have you seen this site? It’s amazing! Sweet Simplicity Design offers the cutest, most affordable custom and pre-designed cards for any occasion you can think of.

Need a birth announcement? Gotcha covered.

Updating the fam with an annual Holiday letter? She does those, too!

Planning a slammin’ birthday party and need a flashy way to let everyone know? Fear not.

Okay, I know you don't want to miss out on this awesome prize. Go. And tell your friends.

Contest Details:
1. The winner will receive one free custom photo card design plus 25 (5x7) free prints of the same design.

2. Your choice of one of the following photo card categories:
  • Holiday card
  • Birth announcement
  • Birthday invite

3. The prize is for a custom design, but you may choose a pre-made design on the website if you would like.

4. The winner may order additional photo cards at the set design prices on Sweet Simplicity Designs' website if desired.

5. You have until NEXT THURSDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2010 at 11:59 pm to enter

6. The winner will be announced the next day and will have 72 hours to respond

Here’s how to enter:
  • Be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry (For example: One comment: ‘I liked you on Facebook!’ Another comment: ‘I follow your blog!’) and your email address or a way to contact you.

Mandatory entries:
1. Publicly follow my blog on Google. See all the little photos of my followers over there on the right? Scroll up a little. Right above them there is a button that says ‘follow.’ Click it. Ta-da! You are now following my blog!

2. Visit Sweet Simplicity Designs. Come back and leave me a comment telling me what you would have Liz create for you!

Extra entries:
1. Follow me on Twitter (1 entry). I’m @avantgparenting

2. Like Avant Garde Parenting on Facebook (1 entry)

3. Tweet this giveaway (1 entry per tweet; up to 5 tweets per day with 3 hours between tweets). Leave a link to your tweet each time. You can tweet something like this:

WIN a free custom photo card design + 25 free prints from Sweet Simplicity Design http://avantgardeparenting.com #giveaway

4. Like Sweet Simplicity Design on Facebook (1 entry)

5. Comment on another AGP post and leave a comment telling me which one (1 entry)

The Fine Print:
Promotion is open to U.S. residents only (sorry, Canadian friends)18 years of age or older as of  (September 30, 2010).
Void where prohibited. All federal, state and local laws apply. All taxes are the sole responsibility of winners.
Judging: Avant Garde Parenting will assign each entry a number and choose a random winner using www.random.org, a random number generator. Avant Garde Parenting reserves the right to disqualify any entry that, in the sole opinion of the judge, refers, depicts, or in any way reflects negatively upon the sponsor, the host, the promotion, or any other person or entity.
Avant Garde Parenting assumes no responsibility for the actions of the sponsor. If a prize is not received, Avant Garde Parenting will make every effort to contact the sponsor on the winner’s behalf, but will not be held responsible for providing an identical or a different prize to the winner and will not be expected to compensate the winner in any way.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I’m Sorry- Did you just LIE to me??

Does your young child lie? Does it appall you? You’re not alone. And I’ll tell you something that will shock you: it’s completely normal and may even indicate that you have a smarty pants on your hands! Some research suggests that if your child is showing these skills as early as two, he may be showing early signs of high intelligence!

Okay, I’m going to get researchy for a second. Lying emerges in children around age 3 and is often the first sign that children are developing a theory of mind. Theory of mind is the ability to simulate in your own mind what others are thinking. Think of it as ‘putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.’ Kids begin to learn this at a young age but they aren’t perfect at it, as you well know.

Take this example: You buy some new red nail polish. The nice, $9, OPI brand. Or China Glaze, whatever. It’s on the counter in your bathroom. When you go in there later, it’s all over the counter, down the cabinet, and running on the floor. You look at your daughter. It’s on her fingers, hands, and face.

“Sweetie, did you open mommy’s nail polish?” I know she did, obviously, because it’s all over her.

“No.” She was in the kitchen. She didn’t see me.

At this young age, kids can’t yet put together all the evidence: that even though mom didn’t see me get into the nail polish, she’ll know it was me because I’m covered in it.

What’s hard as a parent is realizing that our children aren’t lying to ‘be bad.’ They’re not trying to be malicious and untruthful- they are merely practicing this newfound skill. So while it’s frustrating and patience-trying, it’s completely normal for your child to test out his new ‘lying’ skills. And exhale- there’s no link between childhood lies and later big-time fibbing like cheating on taxes or cheating on spouses.

But we still want our kids to know the importance of honesty. So what can you, as a parent, do to help your child learn that lying isn’t okay? Here are a few ideas:
  • Teach the difference between fantasy and reality. When sharing a book or watching a television show, talk to your child about why what he’s seeing isn’t real. In the same vein, recap actual experiences with your child (going to the zoo, the doctor, grandma’s)
  • When your child lies, comment on the positive intent. Your child wasn’t intentionally trying to anger you. Instead of ‘Why would you get into my nail polish?! Do you have any idea how hard this is to clean up?!’ try, ‘I bet you really wanted pretty red nails like mommy, huh? You know you’re not allowed to paint your nails yourself (ß that part can be stern), so why don’t you let me help you?’
  • Don’t set your child up to lie. For example, if you know your kiddo has not brushed her teeth as she’s hopping into bed, don’t ask knowingly ‘did you brush your teeth?’- she’s likely to tell you she has because she knows that’s what you want to hear. Instead, play dumb. Say, ‘Okay, let’s go brush your teeth!’ If she’s already done it, trust me, she’ll tell you!
  • Praise the truth when your child does tell it. Even if it means your child has misbehaved, recognizing that your child has told you the truth will encourage him to do so again in the future.
Tell me about a time your child has lied. Were you furious? Did it make you laugh? 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

AGP got another award!! Can we go to to CiCi's now?

****SIDE NOTE****I have something VERY SPECIAL to announce this Thursday (and no, I'm not pregnant). Be sure to tune in this Thursday because you will NOT want to miss this!!!

AGP got another blog award! These just always make me sit a little higher in my seat, ya know? They make me feel so gosh-golly good like, ‘Someone is actually reading this?! And they like it?!” Ha! I just chortled a little.

The 'Versatile Blogger' award came from Kimberly over at The Stinker Pinkers. If you haven’t read her blog yet you should. Can I just say for a second how real she is? She has this great way of giving her opinion without being judgy and she opens topics up into great conversations via her comments. Sigh. I love this gal.

To accept the award I’m supposed to tell you 7 things about myself. Here goes.

  1. I never forget a name.
  2. I hate how high my voice is. But I guess it's better than having a really super low voice.
  3. I can still beat you (and most kids) in a handstand contest.
  4. I have four best friends and they all have bright red hair.
  5. I haven’t had caffeine in almost 15 years.
  6. My husband and I have the same first, middle, and last initials.
  7. Speaking of my husband, here’s my happy place: one night a few years ago we were watching So You Think You Can Dance. He never really says anything about any of the dances but that night, for the first time, he saw a Doriana Sanchez Disco routine. He looked at me, nodding his head slowly and said (completely serious) “I’m really feelin’ this one.” To this day, when he hears the disco music coming from the tv, I see his head pop into the room: “Whatcha wachin’?” That’s my happy place.
So that’s me in a nutshell. But you know I have to tie it to parenting, right?! Here’s a fun idea to build your child’s self confidence and self-concept: make a ‘me’ book. It’s easy. Take several pages of printer paper and fold them in half while still stacked together. Then staple on the side you just folded so that you have a ‘book.’ Inside the book, help your child make each page something about him or her. For example, favorite color, favorite toy, name, hair color, eye color, etc. Your child can draw pictures inside or you can take and develop photos to include in the book. I guarantee this will be a book your child will want to read over and over!

Now, on to whom I’m passing the award on to. In order to accept the award you must:
1.    Thank the blogger who gave it to you (me) and link back to their site
2.    Tell 7 things about yourself
3.    Pass it on to other ‘versatile’ bloggers!

  1. Holly at I Heart Bowheads – Don’t you just love that blog name?! Holly is a fellow DFW blogger who makes me smile, chuckle, and sometimes full out snort laugh.
  2. Sue at Mommy’s Pen – I knew I loved this blog when I read that her preschooler goes to a Waldorf school (do you know what that is? If not, check out her blog. If so, check out her blog). Sue has great, to the point posts that make me think and smile.
  3. Cristy at Is there a Doctor in the House?– Umm she has a cute baby. Need I say more? But really, this blog is just a good ‘life’ blog that truly is versatile. I love checking in everyday to see what new topic Cristy has written about. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Avant Garde Parent of the Week: Lori

Lori with her Mother's Day roses
This is Lori from Lori's LOLz. Lori is Amazing. See Lori Go. Go Lori Go!

No, really. Lori is the supermom to three kids (who are stunningly gorgeous, don't you think?!) If I had to think of one word to describe Lori as a mom it would be 'interactive.' Lori doesn't just raise her kids, she grows and learns with them. Think about how important that is for a second.

Lori gives and gives to her kids and guess what? They give back. Read on as she describes the fabulous Mother's Day they put together for her!

I woke up on Mother’s Day this year to a day that I’ll remember for always.  After my morning shower I found my bed made, the aroma of fresh coffee filing the house, and a beautiful light, healthy breakfast was set.  My 3 children gave me the most wonderful Mother’s Day morning, and it just kept getting better as the day went on. 

Lori's three very thoughtful children
A little before 1 PM my children asked me to get in the car because we were going for a ride.  Ok, I’m thinking, ‘am I wearing an appropriate outfit for where we’re going?’  Half way there my son told me that they all 3 pooled their money and bought me a pedicure at my favorite DaVi Nails in the Wal-Mart Shopping Center.  Am I ungrateful or what?  I asked my son to turn around because I was wearing my sneakers and I needed my sandals or my pedicure would get messed up.  I know, I’m totally ungrateful and also not very appreciative of how aware my children actually are.  My son reached in the back of the car and pulled out my favorite sandals that my little girl very thoughtfully placed there. 

Mother’s Day continued to get even better.  When we got home it was time for presents: a Topsy Turvy tomato planter, a Nook e-reader with a gift card to Barnes and Noble, and 3 beautiful roses, one from each of my children.  Later that evening came an incredible BBQ dinner accompanied by the lit Chimenea and topped off with a fabulously delicious home baked cake. 

The absolute best part of my day was spending lots of time talking and laughing as a family and feeling that unconditional love for what I have been blessed with, my three beautiful, healthy, happy and oh so thoughtful children. 

If you would like to be featured as an Avant Garde Parent of the Week or have someone you would like to nominate, please email me at deluna.jamie@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Parenting Quick Challenge: Focus on You

I haven't really told you a lot about me. I try and keep the focus on kids and parents because, well, that's what this whole shindig is about. But sometimes it's fun to tell others about yourself, and that's just what my bloggy friend, Balancing Mama, let me do this weekend over at her blog. So if you've ever wondered about 1. My eyebrows, 2. My favorite musical, or 3. How and why I started this blog, head on over and read a little about yours truly. You'll also want to follow Balancing Mama because she's inspiring and her daughter is CUTE!

Okay, so now to the challenge. Like I said, it's fun to focus on yourself sometimes, but its also healthy. Of course it's great to devote yourself to your children and take care of their needs- that's your job. But guess what? Taking care of yourself is part of being ready to take care of your children.

Today's challenge has two parts:

1. Take some 'me' time, even if it's just 10 minutes. Resist the urge to empty the dishwasher, fold the laundry, or take out the trash. Instead, make yourself a cup of hot tea, soak 10 minutes longer in the shower, or send an email to an old friend. It will recharge you and you'll feel energized.

2. Tell you children something about you. Tell your very young children your favorite color or food; tell your older children how you deal with happiness or frustration- but make it about you. Children learn through actions and sharing something unique to you will help them learn that every person is different. 

Okay, you know the next part. Tell me about it! What did you share? What were your children's reactions? Read more...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cheap Fun: Autumn

Fall is in the air- can you feel it? The leaves crunching under your feet, the brisk autumn air, the harvest colors. Okay, I can’t feel it in Dallas yet but I can dream, right? Fall offers so many opportunities for fun activities- make this one to remember!

  • Leaf rubbings – Find a variety of leaves from the yard. Place a sheet of paper over each one and rub with the long side of a crayon. Your little archaeologist will love seeing the shape and details of each leaf come alive!
  • Collect acorns – This one is easy. Dedicate a shoebox for autumn acorn collecting and keep it by the door for easy access. Acorn activities are endless- sort them by size and color, glue them to a fall scene drawn/painted/colored by your child, or just see how many you can collect over the course of the season!
  • Make a cornucopia of thanks – For many families, autumn and particularly Thanksgiving is a time for thanks and reflection. Help your children participate by making a cornucopia out of posterboard (here’s a template). Hang it on the wall and let the kiddos draw and cut out things they are thankful for. Tape them to the cornucopia and watch it (and your children’s thankful hearts) grow!
  • Break out the sidewalk chalk – The weather is perfect, so grab your bucket of sidewalk chalk and decorate the driveway and sidewalks! Think of and draw an autumn item for each letter of the alphabet (A-apples, B-broomsticks, C-cornucopias). Or, decorate ‘pumpkins’ by drawing giant ones on the pavement.
  • Visit a pumpkin patch – Most pumpkin patches offer at least a day’s worth of fun activities- hay rides, apple picking, petting zoos, and, of course, pumpkin decorating! Bonus: They are great spots for beautiful fall photos of your kiddos!
  • Toast pumpkin seeds – Though cleaning out the ‘gunk guts’ of pumpkins can be a chore and sometimes, an arm workout, the seeds are useful! Separate the seed from the gunk and rinse. Spread olive oil onto a baking sheet, then seeds. Stir the seed to coat, sprinkle on salt, and bake at 325 for 20 minutes. Enjoy!
Autumn is a special time of year and one that offers lots of things to see and do for kids and families. Use these ideas to make autumn special for your family!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Be Flexible: Bend Without Breaking

One of the hardest things about marriage (for me) is realizing and accepting that your spouse can have a completely different opinion about something…and it’s okay. It’s easy to agree- you feel connected to the person because you share similar viewpoints. It’s also fun sometimes to disagree- it sparks interesting and lively conversation. But when you disagree about something you’re passionate about, it can be infuriating and really difficult to step back and think, ‘Okay, he has his opinion. It’s not wrong. It doesn’t make him a bad person. It’s just different than mine.’

Surprise! This happens with kids, too. You are dying for her to wear the new dress you bought her for school pictures. She wants to wear an old t-shirt. You know he’d just love t-ball if he’d give it a chance, but he’s deadset on soccer.

So what do you do? You want to let her have choices, but you also want to maintain your role as the parent and leader. Here’s something I learned from a (genius) mom friend: be flexible. Let her wear the old t-shirt. Let him try soccer. Be flexible. It can be so hard but I promise it will be worth it.

Try it like this: “You know what? I can be flexible about what you wear for your school pictures. You pick what you want to wear. I will need to comb your hair and brush your teeth really well the morning of pictures, though.” This allows your child to practice independence while also setting boundaries on the non-negotiables.

I suggest using the words ‘I can be flexible about that’ when employing this strategy. I have a feeling you will eventually A. Hear your little one telling you that he can ‘be flexible’ about something and B. Hear your little one say, ‘Mommy, can you just be flexible about bedtime/having candy for breakfast/watching tv all day?’

Why be flexible?
  • It shows your child that you respect him and that his opinion matters
  • It is a great example of having an open-mind and compromising
  • It allows your child to feel a sense of accomplishment
  • It helps your child learn to be independent
  • It teaches your child (by example) to respect other’s opinions
  • It helps you to slow down and take in all the options
**UPDATE: BalancingMama (thank you!) made a GREAT point in her comment. Which reminded me of this: If you are flexible with your child on smaller issues (what to wear, what to eat, etc.) she will likely be more accepting when you 'put your foot down' on a more serious issue (safety, bedtime) because she knows that you will say yes when you can. 

Did you try it? It will take several times to kick in/be effective. Give it a week, then let me know how it’s working!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Avant Garde Parent of the Week: Megan

Megan with Baby P

This is Megan. Megan is a brand new mommy to a sweet little monkey with bright red hair, just like her! Can I just tell you that Megan’s entire labor lasted something like 3.5 hours?! I know, I know, we should hate her. But you can’t because she’s super nice, thoughtful, and funny.

She’s a working mommy but somehow still finds the time and energy to take baby P to swim lessons, story time, grammy & grumps’ house, AND love on her hubby and three dogs. Oh, did I mention that she also blogs?! Megan is my mommy idol. Read on as she talks about how music plays a role in her and baby P’s life. J

"His life is like one big musical," my husband observed after leaving swim class with our 11 week-old son Parker. I would love to say that after 11 weeks we have it all figured out and proceed to tell you the ins and outs of parenthood, but unfortunately I am 100% novice and pretty much flying by the seat of my pants most days...if I can remember to actually put on pants!

One thing, however, that I have observed over these 11 short weeks is how beneficial music can be. We are now at the smiling stage, which I believe solidifies your role as a mother. In that single moment, you are rewarded for all the sleepless nights and crying spells (both by mom and baby) and all of the other challenges that come with being a new parent. Well, my son gets especially smiley when I turn on my iPod (which has now gone from Rhianna to songs about the ABCs) and sing to him- I get a whole different type of interaction. He stares me down, watches my mouth, and eventually breaks into a HUGE smile followed by what I assume is an early attempt at a giggle. These interactions are priceless! I believe this is not only a way to teach him to appreciate music, but also another fun way for him to learn sounds, which will eventually lead to talking.

Swim time!
Our family participates in both a baby swim class and library story time- which center around learning different skills but both encompass music. Each activity comes with a song. Whether it is short or long, silly or informative, when you put it to the tune of "All around the Mulberry Bush" or "Mary had a little lamb", even the simplest of tasks become fun and exciting! Much like AGP discussed about finding ways to make cleaning fun, why not include a song?! If you don't know one off-hand, make one up! The same goes for eating vegetables, scrubbing during bath time, or even during play time! Why not?! Your child doesn't care whether you have a good voice or even if you are on pitch, they just enjoy hearing your voice and acting silly with mommy and/or daddy.

Try it next time you are making dinner with your little one or putting PJs on at bedtime, you never know, it may stick and become a lasting memory for you and your child!

If you would like to be featured as an Avant Garde Parent of the Week or have someone you would like to nominate, please email me at deluna.jamie@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Parenting Quick Challenge: Listen.

It’s hard enough to listen to other adults, let alone our children. While listening to your kids talk, it’s easy to get lost thinking about what you want to say in response or how to make this a ‘teaching moment.’

Today I challenge you to listen. Really listen.

Today when your kids talk, take it in. Hear the words, but also experience the emotion, see the body language, feel the connection.

Listen to how well he expresses himself. Hear how much joy and emotion is behind what she says.


What did you hear?


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dollars and Sense: Teaching Kids about Money


I grew up with a banker father, so I had a savings account before I could even walk. As an adult, I’m so grateful that my father took the time to carefully teach me about money, budgeting, and saving. Especially with the credit crisis/recession/housing bust, it’s more important than ever to make sure our kids know the value of money and the importance of handling it wisely.

Here are a few ideas to get the money ball rolling in your house:

  1. Allowance- This is one of the easiest ways to teach even the youngest children about money and budgeting. Giving preschoolers a monthly allowance can also be a calendar lesson (August money, September money etc.). Help your child make a money plan for the month by finding items that are within his budget. Print/Cut out pictures of the items, paste to a sheet of paper, and hang on the wall as a reminder of either a. What he has to look forward to spending his next month’s money on or b. Why he doesn’t have any more money to spend again until next month.

  1. Use a variety of currency- When giving your child her allowance or even when paying at the store, expose your child to the various paper and coin monies we use. Though very young children will not be able to understand the monetary value of each piece, they will begin to put a ‘face with a name,’ so to speak, by labeling each piece of currency.

  1. Make a wish list- Help your child compile a list of different toys/games/things he wants. Next to the item, list the price and assign a priority (For example: really want, would be nice to have, to keep in mind). This will help your child evaluate when he will be able to afford each item as well as how important each item is to him.

  1. The Bank of Mom & Dad- A friend of mine does this and I think it’s genius. Here’s how it works: The Bank of Mom & Dad pays 100% interest, but all deposits must remain in the bank for a month (or a week, two weeks, whatever you choose) to collect said interest. After that period of time, the child then gets the original deposit plus the 100% interest, thus doubling his initial amount! (Caution: Do this only if you are actually willing/able to pay out at the end of the period!)

Hopefully, armed with these fun ideas, you can begin to help your preschooler learn about and explore the exciting world of money (I know I love money)- Cha-ching!

How do you help your child learn about money and saving?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Avant Garde Parent of the Week: Bobbie

This week I’m featuring Bobbie of A Vision to Remember. Bobbie is the SAHM to two girls, ages 4 and 1. Not only is she super crafty and can make anything from rugs to clothes for her girls, but she also makes home-cooked meals for her family every night! Read on as Bobbie shares one of her favorite, fun, homemade recipes.

Jamie asked me the other day to write to you all about why I am the parent of the week.  I have many shorts as a parent but something that I don't fail at is feeding my children home-cooked healthy and loving meals.

I have always encouraged my daughters to eat their fruits and veggies.  They both love to eat many of the foods that I give them, but there are still some that they are not fans of like, cauliflower or squash.  So when I have either one of those veggies in the fridge, do I throw them out in the trash or try and pawn them off on an unsuspecting neighbor or family member?  Nope, not on your life!  I sneak them into a delicious recipe and my kids don't even bat an eye!

The other day I made a potato chicken soup (both of which my girls love), but I still had that cauliflower and squash whining to be eaten before the mold took over.  So with my daughter’s permission, I pureed them and mixed them in with the soup in the crockpot. How did I talk my 4 year old into adding cauliflower and squash into her beloved soup, you ask?  I told her she would not even taste it and I let her blend them all up.  My 4 year old has a really believing heart, plus she loves to help me in any way possible.

The verdict: they both ate the soup with not one complaint! Next time you are cooking, consider adding a few more nutrients to your every day meals.

Now in the spirit of homemade family goodness, I want to share one of our family favorites. I love ice cream and so do my girls. I like to believe that eating homemade ice cream is much more healthy than the store bought kind, so here’s a great recipe:

Homemade Ice Cream
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
desired flavoring

Mix all ingredients together.  Then put into your ice cream maker.  We have this ice cream maker.  It works really great and is super simple.

For the flavoring I like to add between 1 and 2 cups of crushed berries or other fruit.  If I do candy bars or something with lots of sugar then I cut the sugar that I add in half.

Making our meals together with my girls helps them to eat nutritiously, helps me to build a strong relationship with them, and teaches them how to cook.  So far my 4 year old can make a mean bowl of microwaved Ramen Noodles, so I must be doing something right!

If you would like to read more from me please visit my blog.

If you would like to be featured as an Avant Garde Parent of the Week or have someone you would like to nominate, please email me at deluna.jamie@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Talking to Young Children about Tragedy

What a catch 22: Young children are most the world's most vulnerable and sensitive citizens, but their emotions, understanding, and communication skills are still immature. How do we, as parents, talk to our kids truthfully about tragedy while also preserving their innocence and not scaring them? Here are a few tips:

1. Follow your child's lead. Instead of explaining everything about a traumatic situation to your child, let him ask you questions about the situation. This will allow your conversation to better address what he needs and wants to know.

2. Be gentle. Encourage your child to express her feelings and thoughts by using phrases like, 'Tell me more about that,' or 'What do you mean when you say ______?'

3. Be sensitive. The way young children cope with trauma or tragedy is different than how adults handle it. Even just the thought of events like 9/11 can be very frightening for preschoolers. Look for and be sensitive to the following behaviors:

  • Clinginess
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Acting out events through play
  • Nightmares/bad dreams
  • Separation anxiety
4. Allow children to be sad. Try not to negate children's emotions directly by saying things like, 'Don't be sad,' or 'You're not sad, you weren't even alive!' Acknowledging and allowing  your child's emotions will show him that you respect him and help him learn more about his own emotional feelings.

5. Bring closure in a positive way. Make an American flag to hang outside, visit a memorial in your community, or write a letter to the troops. Such activities will help your child have closure on the topic. Bonus: your child is learning the value of patriotism and kindness to others.

Another great resource that pertains specifically to 9/11 can be found here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Does Daycare Damage?

A few months back, I had the amazing opportunity to guest write for the official blog of the Center for Children and Families, a research, practice, and outreach organization at the University of Texas at Dallas. 

The topic? Childcare. It's a hot topic that parents have polarizing opinions on. The truth is that while many parents would love to be able to stay home full time with their kids, they just can't. Many parents are concerned that childcare, for whatever reason, may damage their child.

So, does daycare damage children? The answer may surprise you...below is the post, and you can find the original here.

When I tell people I study parents and kids, I’m often asked, ‘Will day care damage my child?’  It’s a common concern--that hours spent away from you, the parent, and in the care of someone who is also watching several other children will somehow harm or damage your child.  The answer is no-- if your child is in high-quality child care.

A recent study shows that children actually benefit from high-quality child care in two important ways: better academics and fewer behavior problems.  The study, which followed a large number of children across America from birth until age 15, found that adolescents who experienced high-quality childcare when they were young performed slightly better on academic tests than adolescents who experienced low-quality care or no care outside the home.  The study also found that children who had experienced high-quality child care had fewer problem behaviors (like getting into fights or arguing) as teenagers. The effects of early child care experience were small but lasting.  Early high-quality child care appears to have some lasting effects on children’s development -- over 10 years later.

These benefits pertain specifically to high-quality care. So what qualifies as ‘high-quality’?  The study defined high-quality care as care in which the provider interacts directly with children much of the time, is warm and supportive of children’s needs, and provides intellectual stimulation through games and other developmentally-appropriate activities.

Why would such child care result in higher test scores and fewer problem behaviors later in life?  Deborah Vandell, the lead author of the study, thinks it might be because higher quality child care provides children with early academic and social stimulation that readies them for school.  Children who receive sensitive care and quality stimulation starting early in life may have a head start on the skills they need to succeed in school.

Based on the study, here are some markers of high-quality childcare:

·     Classrooms with a low caregiver-child ratio (fewer children per caregiver) and low turnover of staff

·     Caregivers who are sensitive and responsive all the time, not just when children are upset

·     Classrooms with age-appropriate games and activities

·     Caregivers who get on the child’s level and interact directly with children

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) can help you locate a high quality, accredited program in your area.

You can also visit your local Department of Family services website and view child care options in your area, including results of recent inspections and any licensing violations.

So, parents, put your minds at ease. The days your child spends at child care, if the care is high-quality, may be helping her more than you know! 

What do you think about childcare? Share your thoughts as this could be a great discussion!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cleaning Up: Lessons from Mary Poppins


In the words of the beautiful, skinny, never-stressed, flawless-skinned, practically perfect in every way, but we can’t hate her ‘cause she’s just so dang happy all the time Mary Poppins:

"In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun.
You find the fun and snap!
The job's a game"

She was brilliant, wasn’t she? Did she end up with Bert? Bert was endearing and all, but I think she could have done way better. She could fly, for goodness sake.

Anyhow, she was really on to something when she turned work into a game for Jane and Michael Banks. And I’m not talking Barney’s ‘clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere.’ No, Mary really and truly made cleaning up a fun game for the kids. Granted, we can’t make the toys fly the way she did (If you can do this, email me with instructions). But we can think of ways to take the work out of cleaning up so that it has ‘an element of fun.’

Next time you hear the groans or see the stiff head shakes in response to a clean up request, try one of these clean-up games:

1.     Color Clean-Up – One person calls out a color, and everyone scrambles to find a toy of that color that needs to be put away. After you put said toys away, whoever found the first toy of that color gets to choose the next color. Make this more difficult for older children by using shapes or materials (plastic, cloth, etc).
2.      Musical Clean-Up – Play this musical chairs inspired game with multiple children. Turn on some music and see how many items each child can put away before the music stops (Mom/Dad gets to be the maestro). Instead of someone being ‘out’ (this would lengthen the clean-up time and possibly cause tears), give a prize to the winner of each round (a sticker, a piece of candy, and extra five minutes of play before bed).
3.     Alphabet Clean-Up – Clean things up in alphabetical order! A is for art and paints, B is for Barbies, C is for Crayons, D is for dolls…you get it. Letting your kiddo find an item for each letter will not only help her feel independent, but it also allows her to practice her letters!

It can be tough to find the fun in chores like cleaning up toys, but these games offer quick, easy ways to achieve a complaint- and tear-free clean-up. Mary Poppins would be proud!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Parenting Quick Challenge: Slow down

Avant Garde Parenting got its first blog award! 

A huge thanks to Is there a Doctor in the House? who bestowed this honor upon AGP- go visit and read about her precious daughter's first day at childcare- too funny!

The 'Cherry on Top' award asks that I answer the question, 'If you had the chance to go back and change one thing in your life, would you and what would it be?'

I'm not sure if this counts, but one thing I constantly work on is slowing down, breathing in, and savoring life. Stopping to smell the roses, so to speak. As a rule, I have two speeds: fast and faster. I'm always looking for the most efficient way to accomplish things, which has its merits, but can also cause events in my life to speed by without me having a chance to enjoy them. So if I could change one thing in my life, it would be to SLOW DOWN and enjoy it more. 

This is a good challenge for parents. With kids, we often feel rushed. Errands to run before lessons/practice, doctor's appointment at 2:15, need to put dinner in the oven by 4:00, homework finished by 7:30. And I'll be the first to admit: it's tough to make yourself slow down. But another tough realization is how crazy fast kids grow up. You know- you blink and they're teenagers. 

Slow. Down.

Take photos in your head. consciously make yourself remember moments in your children's lives. Write them in a journal. Capture them on film. Slow. Down. My guess is that you'll be glad you did.

So the challenge today: savor three moments. They can be with your kids, your husby, or yourself. 

Did it relax you? Put you in a good mood? Make you even more late for t-ball practice?

The 'Cherry on Top' award also asks me to choose 5 other blogs to give the award to. Not surprisingly, I chose parenting/mommy blogs. Here they are, described in three words each (not because I'm supposed to, I just like a challenge):

The Happy Holladays - witty. dogs. baby.

In the Kitchen with Audrey - cooking. kids. innovative.

The View from the Johnsons - hilarious. relatable. hilarious.

Lori's LOLz - homeschooling. inspirational. useful.

ag.gray.gate - family. eclectic. smiley.


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