Category Archives: Baby (9 – 18 mos)

Parenting Book Review: Diaper-Free Before 3

So I never got around to finishing this post about how I potty-trained Noah, but now that Ender’s potty training has begun, I’m ready to approach the subject again. I checked out Early Start Potty Training again from the library to refresh my memory, and I saw this book–Diaper Free Before 3 by Jill M Lekovic, MD–on the shelf next to it. Boy, am I glad I did! I’ve finally found a potty-training book that embodies my personal philosophy of the process.

The philosophy behind Diaper-Free Before 3 is simple: earlier potty-training means fewer diapers. Fewer diapers are better for the environment and mean greater freedom for both the parent and the child. I personally have also found that it is easier to potty train at a younger age because 1) your child is less independent and more willing to respond to direction, and 2) you are more patient because you expect slower progress with a younger child.

Note that I said it’s easier, not that it’s faster. It took me 6 months to train Georgie at age 2.5, and it took me 6 months to train Noah at age 1.5. However, Georgie’s 6 month potty training was filled with yelling, bribery, and tantrums on both of our parts, and Noah’s was a gradual, pleasant, laid-back experience. I know which way I’d rather spend 6 months.

So what is the Diaper-Free Before 3 method of potty training? You’ll have to read the book for the long version, but here’s my cheat sheet:

  1. Learning to sit on the potty – Starting as early as 6 months, set aside 10 minutes a day to practice sitting on the potty. After a meal or before or after naptime are the best times to ensure your child will have some success. Bring a book and comfort your child as he gets used to sitting on the toilet. If something ends up in the potty, great, deal with that, but otherwise just focus on the routine of using the potty once per day.
  2. Increasing potty opportunities for success – Once the child is willing to sit on the potty when asked, increase the your 10 minute potty sessions. I like to introduce a new one every week or so, again after a meal or before or after a naptime. Soon your child will be a pro at the routine of sitting, and even be successful some of the time. Use the phrase, “It’s time to go use the potty” rather than asking your child, “Do you want/need to use the potty?” They don’t know, and the default answer to a parent question is often “No!” Just make it part of your day, like eating lunch or brushing teeth. However, there’s no need to force your child to sit for long periods, just like you shouldn’t force your child to eat if they don’t want to. Just go and try, then finish and be done when they are done.
  3. Training sessions – When your child makes the connection between the potty and what goes in it and is having lots of potty trips each day, add a period in your day when you allow your child to wear training underwear or go naked. (No pull-ups, please!) This will allow your child to realize when they are going in their diaper and hopefully begin to make the association that they need to use the bathroom.
  4. Full time underwear – After your child understands the process and has few accidents per day, transition to full-daytime underwear!

Notice there are no bribes, rewards, or elaborate systems. This is what I love about this system. No coercion, just a normal expectation that they will learn eventually. It’s a slow process, but because you start early, it’s much less stressful because you have all the time in the world.

I also love Dr. Lekovic’s relaxed tone. She takes a very middle of the road approach to many parenting debates (cloth diapers vs disposable, early potty training vs readiness) which makes her a delightfully refreshing voice. I love how she bases her opinions and evidence rather than philosophies and guesses.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to potty train a child. It doesn’t matter if your child is older than 6 months; just start now. I started with Ender a few weeks ago (14 months old). At first, he was terrified of sitting on the potty, but he’s calmed down now and even had a few successes. And he loves washing his hands! I’m excited to see where this adventure takes us.

What are your favorite potty training tips and tricks? What parenting books I should read next?

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Montessori, Potty Training, Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Quick Poll for my Mormon Readership/Friends

So some of you have probably heard from me about my enthusiasm for the way our family studies the scriptures with our very young children (5, 3, 1). I’m so excited that I’m in the process of writing a little ebook curriculum with our reading schedules in it.

The problem I have in writing this book is that I don’t know much about the experience of other families in studying the scriptures with young children. So I’m calling upon all the Mormons I know to do a little informal research study for me. If you currently have (or had in the past) young children (say, under age 6), could you answer these questions for me in the comments? (Or via email if you’d rather be private.)

  1. When did you start reading the scriptures with you first child? When did you require subsequent children to be present at family scripture study?
  2. What did you read for scripture study with young children? Did you use the LDS Scripture Stories manuals? The actual scriptures? Other scripture story books?
  3. Did you do any other studying activities (ie memorizing, journaling, etc.) on a regular basis?
  4. How consistent were/are you at reading with your children? What barriers exist to being more consistent?
  5. Any other comments, questions, problems related to studying scriptures with young children would be awesome.

Thanks in advance for your input on my quirky little project.

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Early Elementary (6-9), Mormon Parenting Hacks, Preschooler (3 yrs - 5 yrs), Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Potty Training the Slow Way: Faster is Not Always Better

I started this post in April when I starting potty-training Sailor, but I’ve been hesitant to post it until we met with success. How could I talk about this stuff if I didn’t know how it would end? This week, Sailor has been almost 100% diaper free with few accidents, and I ‘m ready to declare success. So without further ado, here’s a little mini-series on my new thoughts on potty-training.

I have to admit, when I was potty training Monkey, I was totally caught up in all the “potty train your child in a week/day/hour” methods that are out there.  I loved the idea that I could just be done and not deal with all the messes.  Yuck.

These methods did not work for us for two reasons:

  1. I didn’t have the patience to focus exclusively on potty training for any amount of time.  Most of “instant” methods I read about required a lot of time dedication from the parent. When I tried it, I found that all I could do if I wanted the method to work was watch my child for accidents and babble about the potty. Any distraction led to failures. I felt bored and trapped, and it made me mad and impatient.  Ditto for Monkey. Even a day was too much to ask; we have better things to do.
  2. I had a hard time understanding the real challenge of potty training is not getting them to go on demand, but getting them to understand when they need to go.  Monkey had the first part down in about 30 minutes; knowing when to go took six months or more.  It was baffling to me why he couldn’t put two and two together.  I didn’t help that Monkey is so naturally bright–I expected him to comprehend this as quickly as he had picked up reading. He didn’t.

After all the yelling and crying associated with Monkey’s extended potty-training period (6 months, a year if you count our first few attempts), I was ready to find something else for training Sailor.  I did not want to go through it again, and more importantly, I didn’t want to put my cute little Sailor through it.  In a whim of random library trawling (whoever coordinated our library so that the parenting section of non-fiction lies next to the kids area was a genius), I picked up a couple of books on potty training from the library including Early-Start Potty Training. It’s a very interesting book, mostly focusing on infant elimination control, the idea of potty training babies starting at 2-4 months. (If you thought babies had no bladder control, consider how quickly your child stops peeing during diaper changes. It only takes a few months before your baby learns that this gets a very negative reaction and they have the control to avoid it.)

I don’t know if I’m quite hardcore enough to take on potty training an infant, but their section on training 18-to-24-month-olds was exactly what I was looking for. A few things I liked about it:

  1. Less time consuming – Instead of potty-training suddenly occupying your whole existence, you start extremely gradually and move up, enfolding it into your daily routine. If you’re doing fast potty training, you’re cumulatively taking hours out of your child’s day for this rather boring activity.  After the first novelty wore off, I’d be put out about it, wouldn’t you? Slow potty training solves this by introducing potty time slowly, so the burden is gradually placed on your child.
  2. More patience – Maybe it’s just me, but it was so much easier for me to be patient with an 18-month-old than a 2.5 year old. I didn’t expect him to understand and I felt fine taking it slow since he had so much more time before he hit the age where it was socially unacceptable for him to be in diapers. I treated it like an interesting experiment to see if he could learn, not expecting any results at all, just establishing habits.
  3. Conditioning, not logic – Frankly when we potty-trained Monkey, there was a lot of arguing and reasoning, bribing and rewarding. But in the end, the reflexes involved are a mostly involuntary system and logic isn’t very helpful. Young toddlers are better programmed to learn by imitation and conditioning than 2 and 3 year olds. Early-Start Potty Training frequently uses the analogy of house breaking a puppy versus housebreaking a fully-grown dog: the dog will understand what you want better but be less able to comply because of habit, whereas the puppy won’t understand but is easier to condition. (I take this on faith, since I’ve never had a dog.)
  4. Balance between child-led and parent-directed – Finally, slow potty training isn’t as in-your-face, “you will do this” as some of the fast potty training methods, but it’s not as wishy-washy as the “let your child tell you when it’s time” methods that will have your child still in diapers at age 4.  It’s definitely parent directed, but the demands upon the child are incremental and therefore a lot less onerous and less likely to draw resistance fire from your toddler.

One thing you must have to accept before you go the slow potty training way: there will be accidents, there will be mess, but it won’t be as bad as you think. Since reading Early-Start Potty Training, I’m beginning to think that all of our modern potty training woes stem from our desire to avoid mess. We start at a later age, hoping they will comprehend quicker and reduce mess. We invented “training pants” which are basically still diapers–they work great to avoid mess, but they eliminate the natural consequences that speed potty learning.

Next week: the steps I modified from Early-Start Potty Training to form my new go-to potty training plan.

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Potty Training, Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Saturday Links – Two Videos and Fall Art Projects

Theory Links

Video: Are Your Family’s Routines Working? – This is exactly why we have routines for everything in our house.  Routines = expected, planned good times.  Lack of routines = panicky, chaotic frustration.

Video: Baby Teamwork – I’m working hard on letting my kids solve their own problems more.  When things like this happen spontaeously between a 1- and almost-3-year-old, it shocks me.  Check it out.

One-Sided Parental Vigilance – Although I’m not on the food hypervilance wagon, I have to agree that I would like to see more studies about kids and media characters.  Not all character play is bad, mind you–I spent a good portion of my childhood playing Sound of Music with a certain friend.  But it makes me sad when young kids are totally addicted to characters on everything they own by age 3.  Childhood (and adulthood) should be a little less branded.

Activity Links

Floor Block Puzzles – I really like the idea of free form puzzles.  Sort of an easy introduction to tangrams.

Display Seasonal Books on a Stuffed Animal Chain – Good enough to go in the family room, I say.

Fun Leaf Projects for Kids – A plethora of ideas for fall themed crafts.  I’m really loving the leaf mobile.

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Family Culture, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Magda Gerber, Preschooler (3 yrs - 5 yrs), Saturday Five, Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Spreadsheet Wednesday: Baby/Toddler Clothing Inventory

To me, one of the biggest shocks about having a baby around was the shear amount of clothing they went through.  At first, with all the various leakages newborns are prone to, it felt like Monkey was wearing a new outfit every two hours.  After that, he started growing like a weed, burning through the 4-5 sizes of clothes made to fit an infant’s first year of life.  (Can you imagine changing sizes that frequently?) I couldn’t even find time to go shopping for clothing, much less hold out for good deals, before he would grow out of it.

With Sailor, I have all of Monkey’s old hand-me-downs.  It’s nice not to be under so much pressure to shop for clothing constantly, but hand-me-downs have their own hazards.  Like returning from Old Navy with my favorite white Oxford church shirt that I knew Sailor would need soon . . . except that I already had two in that size and none in the size below it.  It is literally impossible to keep track of that many sets of clothing in your head.

Clothign Inventory

Click to download a copy

Which is why I invented this lovely clothing inventory spreadsheet.  It’s made to be printed double-sided, then folded in half to make a booklet you can fit inside your purse.  Just go through your stash of the next few sizes of clothing up, and mark what you have on the sheet.  I even make things too complicated and have separate marks for “clothing I have which is ugly and I want to replace, but which I can live with if I don’t find a good deal.”

Anyway, I keep my inventory in my purse at all times–it’s got plenty of water stains from leaky water bottles, but it’s still legible.  You could keep it on a smartphone or note program like Evernote, but I find check boxes and a pen are easier to keep up to date.  Having this information at your fingertips can be a real money saver.  Not only do you not end up with duplicate clothing, but you also have the advantage of being able to shop end-of-season sales for 1-2 sizes ahead.  You can buy high-quality, brand name clothing for much cheaper if you plan ahead. This piece of paper has been a huge sanity saver for me as well.  Hope it helps you too!

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Couponing/Money Saving, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Preschooler (3 yrs - 5 yrs), Spreadsheet Wednesday, Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Mormon Parenting Hacks: “Mom’s Sick” Emergency Preparedness

Okay, I promise this post is way more awesome than it sounds.  Also, it’s not really a hack just for Mormon parents.  It just seems especially Mormon to me since we’re well-known hoarders of 5-gallon buckets.

I first read about this idea last week on Latter-Day Homeschooling as “Emergency” Homeschooling Survival Kits.  The idea was to have three days of homeschooling lessons packed into three 5-gallon buckets, to be used on days when you’re sick or otherwise un-motivated to teach homeschool.

But, really, what mother with toddlers at home doesn’t need an “emergency sick day” kit?  I’m pretty sure this sounds like the best idea ever to me.  Pack a bucket (or reusable grocery bag) with a days worth of activities for your toddlers, then pull it out when you’re ill, or one of your kids is ill, or when the refrigerator breaks and you need to entertain children at home for the day with minimal effort.  Maybe you’ve all thought of this idea before, but to me, it’s revolutionary.  Why not be prepared for the inevitable?

My goal this month is to put together 3 emergency sick day kits for under $15 each.  Here are my ideas of what to put in an emergency kit:

  • New school/craft supplies – because nothing makes coloring suddenly interesting again like a new box of crayons.
  • Stickers – a great activity I recent read of is to give the kids a million little stickers and a paper with a large shape outlined on it.  Have them fill the shape with stickers.  Sounds like 30 minutes of rest.
  • Printed out craft instructions – something simple and non-messy but time consuming?  Also ideal if it’s at the level a child can do by himself without a lot of help from (miserably sick) you.
  • Coloring books & puzzles from dollar section at Target – really, any thing from the dollar section will work.
  • Cake or cookie mix – both activity and comfort snack
  • Picture book
  • Clearanced toy from “the stash” – Do you guys have a stash?  I keep a stash of under $10 children’s toys for birthday presents; they’re also my current “bad day” go to solution, but doling them out like this will keep them more under control.  You could also do this a more expensive way and buy toys that you want to add to your toy collection, but not give them out until sick days.
  • Children’s DVD – great for the last hour before your husband gets home when you really can’t do any more.  Again, think of it as building your collection in a beneficial manner.

What do you think?  Any other brilliant ideas for what to put in an emergency kit?  I also like the idea from the original post to have emergency meals stored in your freezer.  A great way to do a little freezer cooking without feeling like you have to live that lifestyle.

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Cooking & Meal Prep, Family Culture, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Mormon Parenting Hacks, Preschooler (3 yrs - 5 yrs), Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Theory Thursday: Transitioning away from “Distraction Discipline”

Today’s Theory Thursday is a little pet theory of mine about the best way to teach toddlers to stay away from stuff you don’t want them to have.  I know, it’s not the most profound subject, but it certainly is a time consuming one for SAHMs.  I’d be willing to bet that a mother of a 1-3 year old spends at least 90 minutes every day shooing their child away from dangerous or breakable things.

Of course, the best way to deal with the problem of not-touchable-by-toddlers stuff is to get rid of it or put it out of reach.  But for some things–major appliances, the toilet, computers, DVDs, mommy’s knitting–that strategy isn’t feasible.  You could just keep your baby in a gated room that is baby safe; indeed, I think this is a good practice for at least some of the day to allow a baby/toddler some independence.  However, sometimes you have to cook dinner or brush Baby’s teeth.  Toddlers, with their new-found mobility, are especially likely to encounter forbidden object.

For new babies, there can be no real discipline to keep them away from things, just a re-direction of energy and attention elsewhere, what I call “distraction discipline.”  But on some sad day, this stops working on your toddler and you have to start saying no and dealing with the ensuing tantrums.  As Monkey grew up, I noticed a progression in the discipline I used for dealing with these situations, which I have codified for your convenience.  Basically, I stuck at the lowest level possible until it no longer worked, then gradually transitioned to the next level.  The levels are:

  1. Make the object physically inaccessible, if possible.
  2. Distract, distract, distract.
  3. Say “No” and try to teach them not to touch it, perhaps with a simple reason.  (If you can’t think of a reason, perhaps you’re just freaking out about a new behavior.  Let your toddler experiment a bit.)  But remember, true logic doesn’t kick in until about 3 years old, so don’t expect this to hold from actual understanding so much as from repetition of a key phrase.  Repeat your phrase calmly until the child realizes you won’t give in and gives up himself.
  4. Offer a comparable activity.  If your toddler wants to pour out all of the cereal from the box, chances are that he or she is just interested in how pouring works.  Provide a plastic pitcher and some beans or rice to pour on top of a blanket or cookie sheet.  If he or she wants to drag something against the fireplace grating and create a horrible racket, take the grate somewhere safe and let them experiment with noise, or use cheese graters and metal sieves as a substitute.
  5. Instruct in nature and correct use of the item.  At some point, you’ll have to give into your toddler’s curiosity and teach them how to use the dishwasher, a knife, the sink, the television, etc. etc.  You’ll be surprised to find out how learning to use an item will stick with a toddler.  They very much like to know how things work and how to use them like a grown-up.  (If you’re unsure if a toddler can learn to do something (like use a knife, or put away dishes), I’d suggest checking out a Montessori book from your local library.  Kids can be a lot more self sufficient than we think.)

Viewing Monkey’s curiosity as a progression in discipline and understanding, rather than an act of disobedience, helps us to have a positive relationship about what he’s allow to do.  After all, it’s unreasonable to expect a 2-year-old to hold to the same boundaries as a 1-year-old.  Think how much they’ve learned in that year!  Once he becomes interested in an item we’d previously settled, I know it’s time to move on to the next level.  And once we’ve reached the last level, it’s no longer a problem because he knows the acceptable uses for that object.  For example, here’s how our discipline progression with the toilet looked.

  1. Keep the bathroom door closed.
  2. If the baby wanders into the bathroom, take him out and do something else with him.
  3. Explain “No, the toilet is dangerous.”  Repeat every time Monkey attempts to touch the toilet.
  4. Once Monkey realized the toilet meant open water play, I provided lots of substitute play by filling a large basin with water and setting it on the kitchen floor.  Bring towels.
  5. Explain how to raise and lower the lids gently.  Practice flushing.  Show how toilet paper flushes.  Explain about not drinking the water.  (Eventually, real potty training. :D)

This form of discipline applies mostly to things that children aren’t supposed to touch–stoves, toilets, cabinets, large boxes full of small parts.  But I suppose you could apply this method to social discipline as well.  At first, sharing and turn taking is beyond them.  Swift distraction is the only way to prevent fights.  After a while, distraction no longer works and you can begin to say “no.”  If the child is simply enjoying the act of taking, you could offer comparable activities by playing give and take with the child yourself, or perhaps a tug-of-war type game.  Finally, when the child is old enough to really understand, you can explain the motivations behind good social behavior and expect them to apply them.

Anyway, this though pattern is useful to me, so hopefully, it can help you!

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Discipline, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)