Quit Being Such a Baby

A new baby born into a family is a gigantic life transition. All members of the family will be readjusting their expectations, their activities and their sleep schedules to accommodate this delightful and brand new life.

As adults we realize that adding a sibling does not simply mean adding one more person. It means shifting and changing the entire structure of the family in order to make a place for baby. Although it is a welcome and wonderful addition, it can often be tiring, frustrating and difficult as well. As adults, we find the transition to be very involved and emotionally (and physically!) straining.

Imagine the internal work going on in the mind of the older sibling! She had been the sole recipient of all the love her parents had to give, and now there is a tiny, needy, energy-sucking baby around all the time who has essentially de-throned her place of honor. Having to share mom and dad with the new arrival—and then only getting the most tired and often impatient parts of her parents—can be emotionally straining as well. Young children, however, have even fewer capabilities for handling the stress than adults because they are developmentally still programmed to believe they are the center of the universe, the cause for every effect.

One common strategy for young children dealing with the birth of a new sibling is to take on the characteristics of the baby in an attempt to get the attention back that they lost. Older siblings are no simpletons—they see that the attention is doled out mostly to the one in the family who is most needy—needing nursing and feeding and diaper changing and things handed to them and rocking and cuddles and pats on the back. The list goes on and on. The older sibling, then, sees that she simply would need to go back to being a baby, and the nurturing will flow forth once again from her parents.

This is not, of course, a conscious process in the older sibling. It is, however, a response to a deep need to continue to get the nurturing she needs during this transition time when she is feeling most vulnerable.

How can parents handle the older siblings shift backwards in abilities? This is a difficult balance because we don’t want to encourage helplessness, but it is clear that our older child is in need of some reassurance during this time. The early childhood staff at Harley Family Center spent some time discussing strategies for helping your older sibling get back on her own two feet in the role of older sibling.

  • We can’t stop her from acting like the baby—it is a very common response in older siblings. Provide the nurturing she is looking for in the form she is asking for it. Rock her, cuddle her, sing to her. When an older sibling gets the sense of security she is looking for through the nurturing, this “baby” behavior tends to go away
  • Bring out pictures of your older child when he was a baby. Spend time talking about what he was like as a baby
  • Talk about and explore the fun things your older sibling can do. Find ways to celebrate them. She can’t sit in the high chair, but you could work with her to make a place-mat which she can keep at her “big girl” place at the table
  • Give your older child a chance to experience successful and big things as often as you can. Celebrate these successes. For example, allow her to help a bit more with baking or cooking. Encourage her to take up an enjoyable household task like helping to fold the washcloths and towels. (Don’t fix them once they have been “folded”) Build up her skills in dressing herself. Provide her with a job for baby (only if she seems excited about it) like being the diaper holder or the baby wipe captain
  • Whenever you have the opportunity, tell the baby “you have to wait” so that your older child can hear. If you are helping big brother get his clothes on in the morning, even if baby is just lying around minding her own business, take the time to say to baby “you have to wait until I finish with your brother”. This is a reversal of what your older child will hear a thousand times in the first months, and therefore very satisfying to older siblings
  • Don’t attach anything that must be done “because of the baby”. For example, avoid asking your child to be quiet during naptime “because of the baby”. Request that your older child use her inside voice.
  • Ask visitors to the house and family members to ask questions and carry conversations with the older sibling which have to do JUST with the older sibling. Avoid asking or talking about baby with the older sibling. Allow some of the visit to be focused on the things other than baby that are going on in the older child’s life
  • If you have help with care-giving for baby, spend that time with your older sibling doing something special with the two of you. It may be simply sitting in another room and reading a book together or taking a walk around the block—your older child will want the time with you and hold that most dear—the activity doesn’t have to be overly planned or structured
  • Try to keep your routines as stable as possible, so the older sibling will know that familiar things are going to happen during the day
  • Read the blog post “Helping Older Siblings Welcome Baby” for more ideas

These months while the family is transitioning to the new baby in the household are often an upheaval for all. Focus on self care for yourself and the other members of your family. Concentrate on showing kindness to all members of the family–and accepting kindness for them as well–and allow for the shifting of expectations to be acted out and experienced by all. Don’t try to do what you were able to do before baby came along. Expect change and find ways to make it a successful adjustment. Make your life and your family’s life as simple and as stable as possible. Say yes to help when it is offered. If you need help and it isn’t offered, ask for it.

Having another baby gives a family the chance to slow way down and focus on what the specialness of each addition means to every member. It is a significant transition; with simplification, patience and an eye toward showing support for each member, the new shape of your family will be celebrated for years to come.

Somebody Come and Play With Baby!

Babies have an insatiable need to play. It is, in fact, the way they learn about the world. Because babies and young children learn best through sensory experiences in a concrete way–rather than learning through hearing someone talk about a subject–the play that your child is doing is the most direct way for her to build a foundation of understanding about the physical world around her. What we tend to take for granted–for example the way that a door will open and close, the way a light switch will bring light, or the way a triangle shape will NOT fit into a square shape–the child will need to learn through repeated experiences.

Adults tend to “play” in ways that show mastery. We enjoy games that have set rules that we follow.  For example: card games, tennis, golf or knitting. Young children do not yet have the sense that they need to master a task–the product is not nearly as important as the process.

How can we help children to learn about their world through play? By playing with our children in the way that is most comfortable for them. When caregivers engage in play, our children are likely to extend the task they are working on because the very best play thing in a child’s life is the trusted adult who loves her. The way we engage in play will make a difference in how effectively our children learn the foundational concepts they are working to understand.

Here are some tips for helping your child take the lead in play–so that she is directing her own learning, while being supported by you.

  • Shift away from assuming there is a “correct” way to play with an object. Let your child explore toys and objects in the way that interests them. Likely, they will learn exactly what they set out to when we give them the space to explore in their own way.
  • Follow your child’s mood when choosing a play activity. If he is feeling excited and energetic, physical play makes sense. If he is feeling quiet and cuddly take advantage of the moment and play a soft singing game or go through a book quietly.
  • Adjust your pace to your child’s when you are playing. Tasks that we do quickly take a lot longer for a child. Reaching for a toy, responding to your voice, making a deliberate move to adjust position, all of these things take time. If we are to follow the lead of our child, we need to follow their timing. Wait, wait wait and wait before you do something for your child or assume they are not going to respond (It can be helpful to count to 10 or 15 in your head). You will likely be delightfully surprised by what they are able to do if you give them the time to do it.
  • Young children like toys that have a familiar feel, with just a bit of novelty. Young children revel in the routine and familiarity of the world around them, it gives them the confidence of knowing what is coming so they can concentrate on learning something new. Provide items and toys that are familiar, but that are open ended so that your child can continue to do something new with them when he is interested in learning more. Examples of open ended toys include: dolls, stuffed animals, rattles, blocks, unbreakable mirrors, toys to grasp and mouth (mouthing toys offers baby a huge wealth of information about an item, and is a great way for them to learn), balls, toys that allow filling and emptying containers and toys that nest and stack. Don’t forget that every household item is new and exciting to baby-and therefore a toy. Ensure that what you are giving to baby is safe to mouth and play with, and then allow them to explore what you have on hand in the house.
  • Often one or two toys or objects at a time is enough for baby. If there are too many items, it can be overwhelming. However, baby is likely to become bored with objects after having fully explored them, so a supply of items and toys that can be shifted will help to keep baby’s interest without overwhelming his senses all at once.
  • Because we are putting baby to sleep on her back, use play time as tummy time.
  • Play is fun! Enjoy this time with baby. Watch the pride and joy light up her face as she learns something new about the world around her!

Preschool Open Houses start tonight!

Hopkins Preschools Visit Us dates start tonight! Here’s the schedule of dates and sites (learn more about our preschools):

Stepping Stones Preschools (full-day • full-week):
Eisenhower/Tanglen:     Tu., Feb. 7, 5:00-6:00 p.m.
(We are moving from Eisenhower to Tanglen in 2012! Visit Us is at Eisenhower)
Meadowbrook:  Wed., Feb. 8, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Gatewood:  Thur., Feb. 9, 5:30-7:00 p.m.

Kaleidoscope Preschools (part-day • part-week):
Meadowbrook:  Mon., Feb. 27, 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Harley Hopkins:  Tu., Feb. 28, 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Glen Lake:  Wed., Feb. 29, 12:00-1:00 p.m.

Registration Dates
Registration for the 2012-13 school year will be lottery-based and is open now – register online or call 952-988-5000. Waiting lists will be kept for all classes as openings may become available.

Lottery Deadlines for School Year 2012-13:
• March 2, 2012 (both Stepping Stones & Kaleidoscope) District residents (first priority) and current open-enrolled/out-of-district families may submit their registrations until noon on March 2, 2012, to be included in the lottery. Families will be notified the following week.
• After March 3, 2012: Spaces are filled first-come, first-served.

Deadline for Summer 2012:
• April 13: Kaleidoscope’s Summer Adventures registrations must be received by noon on April 13, 2012, to be included in the lottery. Summer Stepping Stones is filled on an ongoing, space-available basis.

All programs continue to accept registrations throughout the year for any available opening.

Need more specific information about the early childhood programs?  Learn more registration information or call us at 952.988.5000.

Why Do Kids Act That Way?

For parents of children 3-8 years.

Are you tired of your child’s arguing and whining? Would you like to increase her cooperative and responsible behaviors? Join us and discover reasons why children misbehave and how you can respond so she takes responsibility for her own behavior. Leave with effective strategies to increase your child’s positive behaviors.

Thursday, Feb. 9

6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Harley Hopkins Family Center, 125 Monroe Ave. S., Hopkins 55343

Cost: $10/adult, $15/household. Child care for children birth-kindergarten available, $5 per child.

Call to register: 952-988-5000 or visit www.HopkinsCommunity Ed.org

Constructive Child Care Criteria

The care of our children is our top priority. We want to ensure that they are in a safe environment and being respected as individuals. We want to see that they are getting their social, emotional, mental and health needs met. There are a lot of great child care options available to us in Minnesota. But how to know if a particular caregiver is a good match for your child?

Minnesota Child Care Resource and Referral Network (CCRR) has created a list of criteria that a parent can use when beginning the search for quality childcare. Use this checklist to focus your observation of the caregiver, and to inform your decision-making in order to secure the kind of care you are comfortable with. CCRR has placed a video on their web site to help guide you through the questions you might have when considering these criteria.

Quality Child Care Checklist

  • Child care providers talk with children often and at their own level
  • Parents and child care providers communicate daily about the children’s well-being
  • Child care providers are knowledgeable and have been trained to care for children
  • Children are cared for in small groups and receive the attention they need from adults
  • The child care space is clean and the care provider has a plan in place to keep children safe and healthy
  • A variety of activities are planned throughout the day that are interesting and involve each child

Be sure to visit the provider, and take the time to observe how engaged the children are in the activities provided. If possible, find a child that has some of the same characteristics as your own child (for example: a very active child, a child slow to warm up to new acitivities, a child who is very talkative, a child who tends to daydream) and watch the way staff interact with that particular child. It will give you insight into how your own child will fare with this caregiver.

CCRR has created a rating system, called Parent Aware, for local child care options. It provides a starring system based on (research-based) practices shown to help promote school readiness and school success.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) sets professional standards for early childhood education programs and accredits programs based on these standards. They offer a list of their accredited programs.

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing the right child care option for your child and your family. Use the above information, and the resources that these organizations provide, to help you narrow in on the kind of care that is most comfortable for you.