23Nov/15

3 Things For Which I am Thankful

I have many things in my life to be thankful for. I have learned, however, that just being thankful, is not enough. Thinking about why I am thankful for these things and verbalizing them outloud or writing them down has brought my gratitude and happiness to a whole new level.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sending out tips on how to enjoy life and focus on gratitude – so if you haven’t subscribed to receive my Tips, check out the box on the right side of this website and sign up!

  1. I am thankful for my health so that I can enjoy all of my senses.

  • I can hear the laughter of my children.

  • I can taste chocolate – hot chocolate in the winter, chocolate chip cookies year round-and I am fortunate to have the capacity to be able to drink/eat whatever I choose to drink or eat.

  • I can smell of roses, and babies, and bread baking on Friday mornings.

  • I am able to see snowflakes and beautiful sunsets and occasional sunrises.

  • I can feel hugs and wet puppy noses on my cheek.

  1. I am thankful to have grown up in America and to have been able to live in a foreign country for a few years when I was younger.

  • I am free.

  • I am a female who can do many things.

  • I have had and still have many opportunities many people don’t have.

  1. I am thankful for you.

  • You ask fascinating questions and are brave enough to ask some questions that many other parents want to ask, but don’t have the courage to do so.

  • You have the courage and strength to ask for help or guidance to get your life to a place that is easier and more enjoyable.

  • You share your life and experiences with me and teach me so much.

 

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy finding things to be thankful for this week and always!

16Nov/15

Helping Your Child Through Tough Times

In the past few days, I have had a number of parents call me and ask what they should tell their children about the recent attacks in Paris (11/13/15). Depending on their child’s age, my response has been a little different, but there are some things that can apply to all ages.

 

The information in today’s blog is based on research and personal experience working with children and families while I was in Rochester, NY after the 9/11 attacks on the United States. No one experiences events like this in the exact same way regardless of whether you are an adult or child.   So read through the suggestions below and do what feels best for you, the parent, and what you think will work best for your child.

 

Children don’t understand what has happened or why it has happened. Quite frankly, neither do most adults. If you have multiple children, each will respond and react in his or her own way. It is important to answer your child’s questions as honestly as possible at an age appropriate level and as calmly as possible. If you need some time to think about what you want to say, what you believe or how you feel, take the time before you talk to your child. Talk to someone else to bounce ideas of him/her to help you feel comfortable. Let your child know that you are thinking about how to answer some of their questions and want to make sure you have an answer that will make sense.

 

Children are often most concerned with safety and are very curious – if you have ever had a 2-3 year old, you know there can be a never ending stream of “Why”s. Sometimes we don’t have the answers to their “Why”s, but we can help them feel safe. Reassure your child that you are in charge of keeping them safe. You will not willingly put them in harm’s way. Talk about things you already do around your house to keep your child and family safe (i.e., lock doors to your house, wear seatbelts/buckle into car seats in the car, have an emergency plan to go to the neighbor’s house if there is a fire or you smell gas – or even if you get locked out). Again, remember to keep it age appropriate. Children don’t need to know everything. My kids didn’t know that we had a fire plan when they were toddlers, but they did know our last name and our phone number from the time they could talk/sing. We taught them our phone number by singing it to Mary Had A Little Lamb and substituting the phone number for the words.

 

As for the “Why”s, answer the smallest question you can. By that I mean that you don’t need to go into a two hour lecture about the history of war or about crazy people. Sometimes kids just want to know where Paris is on the map or how far away they are from the event. They also want to know if it could happen here. Again, reassure them that it is rare and that you are doing everything to keep them safe. You can also ask your child what she has heard or what she already knows. This will help you better understand what she is asking and how to answer her questions.

 

Keep things as normal as possible. When 9/11 happened, even though our world was turned upside down, preschools through high schools continued to run as scheduled to help keep things as normal as possible. There were often extra counselors on hand for both the students and the staff, but other than that, kids continued to be kids and go to classes. Continue to live and do things as you normally would, while being aware that you might continue to have conversations that you normally wouldn’t have with tough questions you wouldn’t normally be asked to answer.

 

If your child seems extra anxious or concerned – again, don’t worry, but be responsive. Continue to reassure your child that you are there to help keep him safe (as are teachers, police officers, fire fighters, nurses and doctors, too). Sometimes children will regress (if they were potty trained, they might need a little re-training – be kind and gentle), other children might have separation anxiety (again or for the first time). This will pass, so don’t make a big deal about it, but do reassure your child that you will be back. Offer a picture of you (or the family) or write a note for your child to hang onto until you return. For older children, you can ask a question for them to think about or give a challenge for them to tackle and report back to you when you return. If your child’s anxiety continues at a high level or you are worried about your child, it’s always OK to check with a professional to get some tips and advice. However, if your child’s anxiety is not constant and seems to come and go, it is probably natural and your child is dealing with things as needed.

 

Sometimes kids will act out a scene through play. This is them trying to figure things out. Often you can just watch and let the child play. Only get involved if he/she asks you to and then, you can be the person who helps, maintains order, or provides comfort.

 

Some children become more clingy than usual. Often this is not because of the actual events that happened, but because they sense that their loved ones are upset or because they’ve seen pictures on TV or on the internet that show adults who are upset, hurt or sad. Be aware of what your children are being exposed to –watch the news or check your phone out of eye/ear shot of your child. Offer your child more hugs and hands to hold as you can. Having a ‘lovey,’ a blanket or a stuffed animal, to provide comfort can also help. Letting your child sleep in flannel sheets or with a flannel blanket has also been said to have a calming effect when children experience trauma or loss.

 

Don’t worry if your child doesn’t show any interest or concern. This is big stuff and far away from their world of play. It does not mean that he/she will grow up not caring about others! It is much easier, especially if they feel safe, to remain in a child’s world. Children also tend to compartmentalize things, so they might talk about this seriously and be scared one moment and be outside playing ball the next. Be aware that your child may ask about this at a future date and time when you are least expecting it. They might hear or see something that makes them curious then.

 

Be patient and calm answering in the best age-appropriate way you can. I find that now it is even more important than ever to teach our children to be compassionate, kind and caring human beings.

09Nov/15

Catch Someone Being Good!

While I have often challenged parents I work with to catch their children being good, a few years ago I decided to challenge my family to catch each other being good. I think it was a busy time of year and we were all tired and running in multiple directions. It seemed as if there were more complaints and arguments than usual. I wanted to shift our stinkin’ thinkin’ from the negative to the positive.

 

I cut long strips of colored paper and put them, along with a few markers, in a box labeled “Can You Catch Someone Being Good?”   The goal was to make a chain with all of the strips of paper. I was surprised that this was difficult for my daughters at first, and will admit there were days that this was hard for me to do, too. However, after a little while, when the girls realized that being good didn’t mean doing big things, it almost became a competition to see who could catch the most people being good.

 

Each day I tried to find something that was good about my children and to look for a variety of things as often as possible. Here are some of the things I wrote on my slips of paper:

Alanna went to bed nicely tonight.
Megan brushed her teeth well for 2 whole minutes.
Alanna fed the dogs.
Megan played with the dogs.
Alanna held the door open while Mommy brought in groceries.
Megan walked to school with a friend so her friend wouldn’t have to walk alone.
Alanna donated allowance money to a friend who was in a jump-a-thon at his school.
Megan asked for items for the Humane Society instead of birthday presents at her birthday party.

 

Here are some of the things my girls wrote on their slips of paper:
Mommy put away the dishes from the dish washer (this was before it became a ‘life-skill’ assigned to my children…)
Daddy, Mommy and Alanna – for being you
Mommy walked the dogs today when they needed exercise.
Megan shared her toys.
Alanna is good at Irish Dance.
Megan played soccer great today in her game.
Alanna played dolls with me.

 

So, what do you think? Can you Catch Someone Being Good?!

02Nov/15

What to Do with All that Halloween Candy!

After a great night of Trick-or-Treating, you’re a bit worried that your child is going to eat 2 pounds of candy a day for the next few weeks.  So what can you do about it?!

 

 

Many parents will limit the amount of candy their children are allowed to eat after Halloween (1-2 pieces/day).  Some even place a limit on the length of time… “We’ll eat Halloween candy for 2 weeks and then be done.”  But then, if you’ve had a good year, there is still all of that leftover candy…

 

Many dentists and orthodontists will collect “extra” Halloween candy.    When I first learned about this, I thought it would be bad for business.  Don’t dentists stay in business because children eat all of their Halloween candy and forget to brush their teeth?  However, each dentist I talked to assured me that they have plenty of business all year long, not just at Halloween and that promoting good dental care (“don’t eat all that candy”) was actually good for business.  They want their patients to have healthy, happy teeth.

 

So, dentists and orthodontists collect the candy you don’t want your children to have.  Some even offer bonuses or prizes.  One dentist in our town offers a dollar for each pound of candy a child brings to his office.  Our orthodontist provides “Goings Bucks” and the children earn one “Goings Buck” towards prizes for each pound of candy they bring in.

 

My favorite thing to do with “extra” Halloween candy is to donate it.  Fortunately, our orthodontist helps with that, too.  He collects the candy from his patients and a few local schools and sends it to our military troops serving overseas through Operation Gratitude.  To learn more about this organization, click:

 OPERATION GRATITUDE

What a fabulous way to encourage better nutrition and healthy teeth in your children while thanking those who are protecting our freedom!

 

Other places you can donate your candy would be nursing homes, hospitals (nurses stations, not patients rooms!), fire and police stations.  A great idea is to include a note along with your candy letting people know how much you appreciate what they are doing.

 

So, you see, there are plenty of positive ways to “share” the extra Halloween candy you don’t want your children eating. Do a little research, get a little creative, and then that candy won’t be sitting around calling your, I mean your child’s, name!

Halloween is Creeping Up

IMG_0091 (2)Halloween is creeping up… and ghosts and goblins are jumping out at us along with witches and vampires.

How do you help a child who is scared of everything make it through the Halloween season?

Young children can have a hard time determining what is real and what is imaginary.  They honestly can’t differentiate between the two.  Sometimes, it is not just the things they see, but rather what their little minds create, what is known as “magical thinking,” that can frighten them.

 

To put it in a regular-day, not Halloween related context, an example of a common “magical thought” can be seen when a child is scared to take a bath because she sees the water going down the drain and thinks she might be washed down with it.  As adults we know this is impossible, but young children do not.

This same magical thinking causes children to believe that ghosts and goblins might come after them at night.

So, what can you do to help your child who is scared?  Here are 5 suggestions:

  1. 1. Don’t try to minimize the fear. Be there to support your child.  The fear is real to him.  Hold his hand, walk on the other side of the street, whatever it takes to support him.

  2. Identify what your child is afraid of.  Once your child is able to verbalize her fear, or when you are able to figure it out if your child is unable to verbalize, you can help decrease the anxiety.   Is your child scared of the many creepy things walking around and people running everywhere?  Maybe she doesn’t like going up to strangers’ houses (not necessarily a bad thing on normal evenings!).  Or is it that your child is scared of Halloween because it’s dark outside?

  3. Help your child deal with his fear, don’t force him to eliminate the fear.   Help your child understand what he is scared of and listen to why he is afraid.  Help put the scary thing into perspective.  Many things at Halloween were invented to let people have fun scaring each other.

  4. Recognize signs of anxiety.  Some obvious signs of anxiety include your child clinging to you with a vice grip hold you didn’t know her tiny hands could accomplish.  Crying, shrieking or hiding behind you are also more obvious signs of anxiety.  Short breaths, timid steps, and slowing down while walking towards something are slightly less obvious signs of anxiety.  Appearing angry or more violent (hitting or kicking you or siblings/friends) are also possible signs of anxiety.

  5. Be Flexible.  Maybe Halloween is your most favorite holiday and you like to go all out…you might need to adjust a bit for a year or two.  If your child is scared of the dark, find day time, child-friendly Halloween events (check out local malls or Trunk-or-Treats).  If your child is scared of going to strangers’ houses, take him to a few of your neighbors’ houses and call it a night.  For children who are scared of all of the creepy things that go Boo in the night, turn off your lights and go to a back room, or bedroom to play a game or cuddle and read stories.

In time, most children grow out of their Halloween anxiety. If you are willing to be patient, flexible and support them, they will be just fine. As they get older, children learn the difference between real and imaginary and many even find out that they enjoy being scared or being the one who scares someone else every now and then.

19Oct/15

Practice Makes Perfect

Is your child is learning to play an instrument? That’s great! Music is such an important part of brain development. It helps with math skills, timing, memory, anticipation, and so much more. For those of you whose children are not playing an instrument in formal lessons, even listening to music, singing or banging on an instrument will help.

When I taught piano, I would tell parents that they should encourage 5 minutes of practice a day and they would laugh at me. I heard, “5 minutes doesn’t seem like enough time to practice,” and “That sounds so easy.” Let’s face it, though. It’s not. Life gets busy and before we know it, we’re reading a bedtime story and we’ve missed that opportunity to practice that day.

Before you beat yourself up, know that it happens to everyone, even to the piano teacher’s children.

Here are four ways to get you off to a good start and maybe even encourage your child to practice on his/her own.

  1. My Initial Chart:

This first idea was suggested by my children’s violin teacher, Mrs. Murphy. Draw your child’s initials in large block letters on a piece of paper. Then draw lines to create small boxes within the letter (think of a checker board inside each letter). Each time my daughter practiced, she could put a sticker or draw a star inside one of the boxes. She would earn a reward for filling in a full letter (new crayons or a pack of stickers) and a bigger reward when the second full letter was full (a special dessert after dinner, a manicure by mommy, family dinner at a restaurant).

  1. 100 Chart:

Create a 10X10 grid (100 boxes) on a piece of sturdy paper. Each time your child practices, she can put a sticker or color in one box. Every 10 boxes she can earn a small reward (bubbles, chalk, stay up 10 minutes later). After 50 boxes she earns a bigger reward (an ice cream cone, a snow ball fight, a bubble bath), and at 100 you need to celebrate together (bake cupcakes or go to the movies).

  1. Yum:

When I used to practice piano in junior high, I would put a handful of m&m’s on the piano. If you don’t want your child eating m&m’s, you could use stickers for your child (but they don’t taste as good…ha ha). Each time I could play a line, or a phrase which was often 2-3 lines, correctly three times in a row without a mistake, I would reward myself with an m&m. I vaguely remember that I adjusted that system for pieces that were particularly hard, rewarding myself for each measure I played correctly. Or maybe, that happened on days that I didn’t really feel like practicing… Be gentle with your child and change things up occasionally. Offer different munchies or stickers for rewards, or alter the amount of music needed to be played three times in a row in order to earn the reward.

  1. Perform:

Have your child ‘perform’ his piece for someone else. A friend or neighbor, even a babysitter would be happy to listen to your child every so often. Your child can even put on an impromptu performance and play for far-away relatives on the phone or via Skype or FaceTime. Each time a piece is played, this is another opportunity to practice.

 

Once your child has a few songs under his belt, arrange for a concert at a local nursing home and have him perform there. If desired, invite siblings and friends to perform, too. Residents will love it, even if your child plays the same three line piece 5 times in a row. Having him play the piece where it is supposed to be played, and then in a higher range and again in a lower range will help make the concert more exciting (for your child).   Having your child perform in a nursing home provides a bright spot in the residents’ day and gives your child a chance to show off and be applauded for his hard work.

Did you catch a 5th way to encourage your child to practice? It was hidden in the last paragraph: Have your child practice his piece in the lower and higher ranges, not just around Middle C where he is expected to practice. It might sound, um, interesting, if your child practices on a different string of his instrument, but that is still practice and a great ear/listening experiment.

As with any long term project or goal, interest will wax and wane. Focusing on the smaller goals of practicing a measure of a line will make it easier to continue. When you reach a big goal, such as completing or memorizing a full song, you can enjoy the progress, and hopefully, the wonderful music your child will be able to make.

05Oct/15

The Joys (not!) of Shopping With Children

7 Tips for Shopping with Children

As a parent who needs to take a child on a shopping trip, you face extra challenges than someone shopping alone. I’ll admit to buying a toy from the $1 section on more than one occasion (blush, blush) to entertain my daughters throughout a shopping trip…

  1. Be Prepared. Know what you are going to buy when you go shopping, have a list. It is very easy to get side-tracked or distracted when you have children in tow. Know how much your child(ren) can actually handle. Some children are calm and sit quietly while shopping. Many others don’t and have a definite time limit of how long they are willing to help you shop.

  2. Timing. Ideally, the best time to shop is when you are feeling energetic, happy and are by yourself. However, reality hits and you have to get to the store this afternoon during a 20 minute window if you are going to have anything to eat for dinner. Oh, and you are going to have to take all of your children and get them into and out of the store within those 20 minutes. If at all possible, shop when your child is not tired or hungry. You will have more success.

  3. Be Willing to Leave. Yes, sometimes, if your child is having a meltdown, you just need to leave. It is not fun to be the parent who is herding a crying, screaming child out the door to the car, and it stinks to be going home empty handed. It is, however, worth the life lesson and the future peace if you do not tolerate meltdowns and tantrums.

  4. Bring a Goodie Bag

  • Pick items that won’t get lost easily (i.e., avoid Polly pockets or small Lego parts)

  • Dress up items (glasses, hats) can make walking down aisles in a grocery store a whole new experience. Have your child pretend to be a cowboy and point out items such as horses or cows that cowboys might be interested in along the way. What does a princess eat to grow strong, be smart and stay healthy?

  • Bring a noisy toy. Some parents aren’t sure about this. When my daughters were little, I would bring a little ‘giggle stick.’ It’s a 1-2 inch stick that you shake and it makes noise. I’ve also had rain sticks and little squeaky toys (note: I don’t recommend the little squeaky toys). Some days I would let my daughters shake as desired, other times, I would ask them to shake along to a song on the store radio or a song we would sing.

  • For slightly older children, bring a calculator. Have them add up each item you are putting in your cart and see how close their total is to the store cashier’s total or subtotal (you might want to explain about taxes).   Even young children (3-5) like pushing the buttons on the calculator to help out.

  • Play detective…have your child hunt for and count all of the blue items in one section or aisle. You can focus on items or on people – how many kids are shopping at this time? How many are in carts, walking, crying? Older children can write their answers down on a pad of paper.

  • Snacks! Most people buy more things at the grocery store if they are hungry…most children get fussy or cry more when they are hungry. Bring a few snacks in a baggie or container for your child (or you!) to munch on along the way.

  1. Runaways. If you have a child that likes to wander or is at the age when he wants to run and hide from you, try not to take them shopping! I have seen the fear in a mother’s eyes as she searched for her child who was eventually found hiding under a display. If you must bring your child, and she won’t sit in the cart or is too big, have her hold onto something (the cart, a furry boa that you bring from home, your belt). Make sure “she can see you” at all times. It’s a great lesson to teach a child to know where you are (“be able to see you”) and is more effective than telling her to stay where you can see her. Have a plan in case you get separated. Let your child know who he/she can talk to (a store employee – point out what their uniform looks like; a police officer; a grandmother) and how to call for you (he should know your first and last name!) if he/she is lost.

  2. Provide a list for your child. If she is too young to read, you can draw or cut out pictures from a magazine (or from the computer) for her to follow while you shop. Have your child check off items on the list as you shop.   If she asks for something extra, it’s easy to reply “If it isn’t on the list, we can’t buy it on this trip.” Quick parent tip: You (the parent) really need to stick to the list if you want this to work…if you are constantly buying extra things, you aren’t modeling this concept well. As an insider’s tip, put 5-6 parent stars on the list, or question marks. That way, if there is something you forgot to put on the list, you can still buy it in place of one of the stars or question marks.

  3. Watch the Clock. Talk about time and see how long it takes to go down each aisle or how long it takes to find an item that’s in the middle of the store (to keep child’s interest a little longer). You can tell your child you anticipate the shopping trip taking X minutes (always add 10-15!) and see how close you are to checking out on time. Imagine her surprise when you end “early”! Watching the clock also means know your child. If your child can handle a 15-20 minute shopping trip, try to stick to that to avoid meltdowns.

While it would be ideal to be able to go shopping on your own, or better yet, to have someone else go shopping for you… sometimes you just have to bring your children along. Using the tips above will help make it easier on everyone involved!

28Sep/15

Get Some Sleep

“Get Some Sleep” is so much easier said than done!   I can’t tell you how many times people told me to “sleep while your baby is sleeping,” when my first child was born. Sounds good in theory, but in real life, my daughter only took 2- 3 twenty minute naps a day! On a good day.

I hate to say it – and those of you who know me personally will know that this is hard for me to say, but I will: Get Some Sleep! You know how tired and cranky children can be when they are tired or hungry? Well, the same thing can happen to sleep-deprived parents. And let’s face it, the first few years with a new child provide many sleep deprived moments. Some days you feel like you are walking around in a fog just trying to keep your eyes open and make sure no one gets hurt.

Reading about the benefits of sleep have been eye- opening to me (no pun intended)! I used to be able to function quite well on 4-5 hours of solid sleep or 6-7 hours of interrupted sleep. I know that I am better able to handle life’s challenges when I am “more rested.” However, the specific health benefits I’ve learned about over the years have been enough to scare me into trying harder to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. In fact, one year, my New Year’s resolution was to get in bed 15 minutes earlier every two months (starting at 11:45 in January aiming for 10:30 by December).

Based on research done by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, NOT getting enough sleep can:

  • Decrease one’s immune system

  • Impair cognitive functioning and memory

  • Affect mood, motivation, judgement and even our perception of events.

In fact, a study at the University of Rochester Medical Center, led by Dr. Maiken Nedergaardfound, found that sleeping actually flushes waste from the brain, helping one to think more clearly during the day.

Now, I’m not living in some fantasy world, although some days I imagine it would be nice. Getting a solid night’s sleep with an infant or young child in the house is challenging. Sleeping during the day when your child is napping can be even more challenging when you want to eat, go to the bathroom, do some work, clean the kitchen, do the laundry, catch up on bills, and maybe even throw a shower in there, too. But challenge yourself to make sleep a priority. You don’t even need to be creative about it. Hire a babysitter or a mother’s helper to sit with your child for a few hours so you can nap. Exchange babysitting days with another mom of a young child and use it as a play date for the children when they are at your house and a ‘nap date’ when the children are at her house.

The better rested you are, the better parent you can be, not to mention the healthier you will be and the longer you will live to parent your children. So please, do yourself and your children a favor and try to get some sleep.

21Sep/15

Please Go To Sleep!

While the ultimate goal is to teach your child to self-soothe and to fall asleep easily on his own, getting there can be accomplished in many different ways. It’s important that you find a strategy that works for you (the parent) and then practice it.

My neighbor swears by the “Ferberizing” or the “Cry-it Out” method (Richard Ferber). It worked wonders for my neighbor, she loved it. I did not have the nerves of steel needed to let my daughters cry it out. The one time we tried it, every cell in my body was jumping up and down and screaming for me to go pick her up. For more than an hour.

The strategy that worked best for me was a special bedtime ritual (book, then lullabies and cuddling) and a sweet good night wish. Most of the time that worked just fine. However on a rough night, I would offer to sit in the room with my daughter after I tucked her in as she fell asleep (even as an infant when I wasn’t sure she totally understood what I was telling and offering her). One daughter liked to have me next to her -I did not need to cuddle after she was tucked in, but she wanted me nearby, leaning against her crib at first, then sitting on the end of her bed. My other daughter was fine if I sat across the room and read a book with my itty bitty flash lite (bonus!). It was just comforting for her to know I was there. On busy nights, I didn’t sit long, but would offer to check back in after a specified number of minutes ( sometimes 5 or 10 or 18 – the number was less important than the knowledge that I was coming back and not leaving her alone).

As my children got older, we used special night lights and sometimes special music to help them fall asleep. The music selections changed as they grew, but it was always calm and quiet. White noise, such as a fan, has also helped to calm children down or hide other noises in the house at bedtime.

Whatever method you choose. Give it a solid two to three weeks before you give up (unless every cell in your body is jumping up and down and screaming!). I love that even now, with my pre-teens, every once in a while I hear “Mommy, will you sit in my room for a little bit while I fall asleep?” I get to watch one of the loves of my life as she quietly rests in bed and occasionally I even get to read a few pages of a good book.

References:

Ferber, Richard. (2006) Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition Paperback. Touchstone

Pantley, Elizabeth. (2002) The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night. McGraw-Hill Education.

Weissbluth, Marc. (1999) Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Ballantine Books.

13Sep/15

Loads of Laundry

I know you might not believe me if I told you that my girls started doing their laundry when they were 3 ½ and 5 ½ years old. And now that they are pre-teens, they are, in fact, doing their laundry on their own!

Think about how much free time you would have if you didn’t have to do so much laundry. If you have an infant, laundry, lots of laundry, is a fact of life. But your child will grow out of that stage and you will have a jump start because you read this in advance.

So, what have you got to lose? A sock? The possibility of a shrunken shirt? Or what if it’s a total flop and you end up going back to doing all of the laundry by yourself?

If you choose to start with the laundry, begin by teaching and modeling. This might take multiple loads, even a few weeks. Most young kids love to sort clothes and put them into the machine. They also like to measure and pour detergent into the machine and press the buttons or pull the knobs. It’s a bonus if you have a see-through door so your child can watch the water come in and the clothes spin.

Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Draw a line with a permanent marker on the measuring cup to the “fill” line you want.

  • Put detergent in a smaller container if necessary to make it easier to pour.

  • Put arrows where your child should press buttons or pull knobs to start the machine. Sticky notes or flags work well.

  • Sorting clothes offers a great chance to teach/review colors.

  • Teach your child how to ‘inside out’ any shirts with designs (prints) on the front.

  • Teach your child to check the pockets. I often let my children keep any coins they find (bonus!).

  • Let your child play basketball to put the clothes into the machine. This works for both the washer and the dryer.

  • The older your children are, the more you can let them do (under your supervision) without your help. You will still need to be very involved while your children are younger, but I promise you it’s worth it in the long run.

I often still help my daughters when it comes to determining which clothes go in the dryer and which clothes need to be hung up to dry. They are old enough to read the labels, but it is quicker (and there are fewer complaints) if mom helps. Sometimes I’ll even help them hang the up those ‘line dry’ clothes (great time to connect!).

When my girls were younger, when the clothes came out of the dryer, they would help by sorting clothes into each family member’s pile and help by finding clothes I was looking to fold, such as ‘Mommy’s shirts’. They could also match socks and learned to roll them together earlier than I expected.

For the most part, my girls are pretty good at doing their laundry from start to finish. We have had a few bumps here and there along the way. I have heard more than once that “no one else has to do her own laundry” and I’m sure I’ll hear it again. I’ve also witnessed some ingenuity and creativity. My younger daughter is ahead of her time. She used her allowance to buy more underwear so she wouldn’t have to do laundry as often – a trick most people don’t learn until they get to college…

So, was it worth teaching my girls how to do their laundry at such an early age? For my family, I have to answer “You bet!”

Pick a life skill, any life skill: mopping floors, making a meal, washing the windows, or weeding the garden just to name a few.   I’m challenging you to teach, supervise, and then to trust and let go.  Under your gentle guidance, your children can learn to do all of this and more.