Thursday, September 6, 2012

Why Your Baby Needs Chiropractic

I'm very fortunate to have a baby who is pretty dang easy. She's hardly fussy, was sleeping through the night at around 6 weeks old, and smiles at anyone and everyone who wants to hold her. While I am sure some of this happy-go-lucky attitude is her disposition, I believe there is a very important part of her health care that makes her so calm and happy.

Kennedy receives regular chiropractic adjustments.

Now, before I continue, let me state that I am not a chiropractor myself, this is just my advise and wisdom as a chiropractor's wife. =)

I know to a lot of people an adjustment sounds like a scary thing to do to an infant. I can assure you, it's the exact opposite. Babies can be safely adjusted as soon as 3 days after birth. A chiropractic adjustment for an infant is nothing like an adult adjustment. The chiropractor will use his fingertips to gently push on the baby's back and adjust the affected area. Hardly scary at all! In fact, the movements are so minimal that when I watch Kennedy being adjusted, I cannot tell when the actual adjustment is taking place. 

You might wonder why on earth a baby needs to be adjusted. The simple answer: birth. Think of the trauma birth can inflict on the baby's body. She spends hours compressing and sometimes twisting her spine as she tries to push her way out of the birth canal and then is eventually yanked out by the doctor. It's intense for you and the baby. Then, the baby spends the next year of life being picked up, passed around, carried, manhandled and loved. Their nervous systems are sent into a frenzy as soon as they leave their comfortable little home in your belly. They are bombarded by new foods, allergens, and a variety of other stimuli. 

Chiropractic is undersold. It's not just for your back. Think about it. Your spine is the center of your body; your nerves travel through your spine. So, essentially, your back can control nearly everything that happens in your body. when you're maladjusted, the corresponding areas of your body aren't functioning properly. Adjustments can correct these issues. 

I'm not going to waste your time telling you everything chiropractic can do for you (although I'd bet you'd be surprised when I told you it can help with colic, ear infections, allergies, post-birth back pain......the list goes on). But if you want information about the variety of ailments chiropractic can help with and why it's important to use chiropractic as a form of preventative healthcare, check out the website for the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association. There is a large list of articles on the research page that can give you all that information.

I want to take my time to tell you about my personal experience with my daughter's exposure to chiropractic. My daughter is fortunate enough to have a chiropractor living with her. She calls him Daddy. As you can imagine, Kennedy was adjusted as soon as she could be and has continued to be adjusted regularly. As I said earlier, Kennedy is simply not a fussy baby. She's happy, healthy, and strong. However, when she does get fussy--that dreaded kind of fussy, where nothing you do makes them stop and it's a mystery as to why they're crying--I would hand her to her dad. He would adjust her and within seconds she was silent, smiling and happy, the mystery pain gone. Her dad says it's usually gastrointestinal issues. He suspects she would be a colicky baby if she wasn't adjusted regularly because of how often he needs to adjust that area. It's amazing to me when I hand over my daughter who is screaming bloody murder and I'm handed back a smiling, happy baby after an adjustment.  I'm a believer--and I think you should be too! 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pinterest Infant Activities

I love Pinterest!
I've been spending a lot of time lately trying to find meaningful activities to do at home with Kennedy that don't involve a lot of special toys. One of the struggles I have been dealing with is keeping Kennedy engaged during the day without special educational supplies available to use. I would love to go out and buy all this stuff, but lets face it: they cost hundreds of dollars. Because I was so used to all of the educational suppliers wonderful materials, I had a hard time seeing household items as "play things". I was stuck.

Luckily, Pinterest is a beautiful resource for finding DIY activities for your little one. I created a board where I could collect infant play ideas (I have a board for toddlers, preschoolers, and big kids, too!) and wanted to share it with you as my list of infant activities.

As I create some of these activities on my own, I'll post about them individually to show you how I adapted it to work for me. However, I know you don't want to wait around for me to create all of the activities one by one. So, use the link to see the ideas I'm working with to create my daily activities. Then, check back regularly to see my take on the ideas.

Up first: a fun activity with mirrors! Check back later this week to see what we did!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sign Language

One of the coolest things I learned while I was earning my bachelor's degree was the power of infant sign language. When I saw it in action, I knew I had to teach my baby to use signs. The infant classroom where I taught it was such a happy, cheerful, crying-free place to be, and it all centered around the use of sign language. Instead of having babies cry at us or throw a fit to tell us what they wanted, they simply TOLD us what they needed. It blew me away how quickly they caught on, how empowered they felt, and how easy it was for the teachers to care for the babies.

Kennedy, frustrated before she knew the sign for more.
As I've been refreshing my memory on the signs to use, I've noticed a lack of information on HOW to teach signs to the babies. So, I thought I'd share how I learned to teach sign language to infants. Let me preface this lesson with a little warning: this is the intensive training for sign language. It's quick, babies pick up on the signs rather quickly, and you have to be aware of what your baby is doing. That being said, you'll never be happier than the first time your baby signs that they are tired instead of throwing a gigantic fit.

So, here's what to do. Don't worry, I'll go over it in detail to help you understand, but then I'll give you the quick start guide.

Step One. Sign, sign, sign! This is the modeling step. Use the signs you'd like your baby to use constantly. If you have the opportunity to sign, do it! If you're reading this as a big-old preggo lady or the mother of a 2 week old, fantastic! You have a fabulous chance to teach your baby because you can start using signs with them from the beginning. Don't expect them to turn around and sign by the time they're a month old, but do expect it to be a lot easier when they get to be the age where they can control those cute, chubby hands of theirs.

Step Two. Help your baby do the sign. You've seen that frustrated face before, the one where they are trying so hard to figure out how to stick their tongue out at you while you raspberry away at them. They desperately want to get that tongue out of their mouth, but just don't know how. The same thing can go for signing. Your child can be desperate to tell you they want more of that yummy food, but they just can't figure out how to put their hands together to say it. However, if you help them to sign "more", their muscles start to learn what that feels like and they're able to figure it out more quickly.

Step Three. Deliver the goods immediately. If you give your child the sign for eat, for goodness sakes, give them something to eat then and there! They have to learn to associate these signs with what they're meant for. So, if you give the sign for eat, then go change their diaper before you take them to get some food, they're going to associate the sign for eat with changing their diaper. Makes sense, right? Don't put anything between the sign and the action or idea it represents.

This video is an example of the first three steps. This is our 2nd day of learning more. The second time around, she starts moving her hands and you can see I pause to see if she's going to try the sign on her own.

Step Four. Reinforce all proximations. That's behaviorist speak for, if it looks anything like the sign you're looking for, give them what they asked for. If you're working on the sign for "more" and your baby claps their hands together, give them more. If they're particularly having a difficult time with the sign, and they even slightly move their hands towards making the sign, give them what they ask for. Continue to reinforce all the baby steps as they get better and better. Although this can take time, they'll figure it out eventually and perfect the sign. Let me stop to give you fair warning here: this is the piece that requires you to actually pay attention to what your little one is doing. Sometimes they can be signing something long before you realize what it is they're just isn't the perfect form of the sign. So, if your baby is sitting in their Exersaucer flailing their arms back and forth crying, what does it resemble? Look closely....think maybe they're trying to tell you they're all done? Just watch their hands a bit more closely once you've started sign language training.

This video is an example of the following day (day 3 of training) when I am reinforcing proximations of "more". As you can see, she's not touching her hands together in front of her, but touches her hands together only moving one hand to the other. I stress again, THIS IS THE VERY NEXT DAY!

Step Five. Work on generalizing the sign. So, the sign for more is most easily started at the dinner table. Kids love food, so they naturally want to ask for more. Once they have it down at the dinner table, then start moving the sign to other parts of their day. When they giggle like crazy at your tickles, get your baby to ask you for more. Remember, help them to make the sign!!

Step Six. Make them sign BEFORE you give them the goods, every time!! This is the most intense part of the process. Most people would say just sign and show them how to do it and they'll learn to do them signs just like they learn to talk, or that you can work on it at some times and not others. Both are true. However, they're going to zip through learning the signs if you add this step. This is the finished product of teaching signs. If your baby is all done with something, help their little hands say "all done" before you pick them up, take their food away, etc. and DO IT EVERY TIME. If they learn they can't have more unless they sign it, they're much more likely to actually start using the sign.

Quick Start Guide to Teaching Signs
(Example given for teaching "more".)

1. Sit down with your baby at meal time. Give them their first bite.
2. Load the spoon with the second bite. When baby's mouth is empty, ask the baby, "Do you want more?" and model the sign.
3. Wait a few seconds (unless this is your first or second time trying it) to see if they make any sort of proximation of the sign "more". If they don't, take their little hands and make the sign more. Say, "more".
4. Feed them the food.
5. Repeat with every bite. (Yes, I said every bite....I told you it was intense!)
6. Be amazed at how quickly they learn to say more.
7. Once baby has learned more, it doesn't need to be said every time, just once their plate is empty and they're still hungry, etc.

These general steps should be used for ALL signs!

Now, you might be wondering, "What signs should I teach my baby?" Here's my list of MUST know signs: (The ones to start with!) Each sign is linked to a short video of how to do the sign from two great websites, Baby Sign Language and the ASL Browser from Michigan State.
Here are some that are really, really good to know:
These are even good to use once your baby has oral language developed. I used these in my 2nd and 4th grade classrooms for times when I was unable to speak to the children. It helps quite a bit with behavior problems during times when it needs to be silent. I think it may be just as useful as a mommy!
Are you limited to just these signs? Absolutely not! There are so many fun signs to learn, so check out, get some picture books or DVDs and learn away! These are just a starting point. For instance, my daughter's favorite sign is puppy...which I only taught her because she's completely in love with our family dog.

Finally, some people worry about oral language development with infants who use signs. They say they become dependent on the sign and don't learn to say the word as quickly. Let me debunk that statement. In the room I was working in, most of these babies could SAY the word for the sign before they moved to the 1 year old classroom. How? Once the sign is mastered and the child is showing signs of oral language (saying "da" "ma" "ga", etc.), start working on your child saying that word WITH the sign. So, when they request more, make the baby say "Mm". Follow the same method as above. The child signs more, you say "Say more.", baby says "Mm", give them more. Continue to build sounds as they create them consistently, so the next step would be "mo", etc. And, before you know it, they're actually saying the words.

So, there you have it: My crash course in teaching sign language to infants. Please, let me know if you have any questions, would like to see more videos, or have any comments!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Manipulative Boxes

KK, my daughter, spent about 10 weeks in daycare from the time I returned from maternity leave to the end of the school year before I started my leave of absence. She was surrounded by a lot of stimulation, activities, and different experiences every day. So, one of my concerns was that she'd be bored at home when it was just the two of us and the same old toys every day. It only took a couple of weeks before I realized I'd needed a solution. She was seeing the same old toys every day and I was finding it difficult to not just pull out the same toys over and over because they were on top of the toy box.

As I started brainstorming ideas, I thought back to my semester spent teaching in an infant classroom at the University of Kansas. We would rotate toys out for new ones everyday. I wanted to figure out a system similar to this that I could manage in my home. What I came up with was manipulative boxes. It is a set of five shoebox size tubs, numbered 1-5, and filled with different toys. I've loved this system. In the morning I grab a box, dump it out on her blanket, and she plays away. At the end of the night when I'm cleaning up, the toys go back in the box and everything is nice and neat, ready to go for the next day, and KK gets a whole new box of toys to explore the next day.

A manipulative box in action.

Materials Needed:
  • 5-7 shoebox size plastic storage tubs
  • A variety of infant friendly toys (see the contents list for each box below)
  • Magic Marker or labels

The toys in the manipulative boxes are all small, hands on toys. They are the toys that are used to entertain KK while I'm cooking, cleaning, or busy otherwise. They're NOT the toys I want to use when it's time to interact with her. I do play with her and these toys at least once a day to encourage her to interact with them in different ways, but I can also leave her to play on her own with everything that goes into these boxes. Because, lets face it, as much as I'd love to spend every second playing with Miss KK, there is a lot of other things to be taken care of throughout the day.

Manipulative Box

  1. Number each box
  2. Fill with a variety of small infant friendly toys
  3. Find a place to store your boxes
  4. Bring out a new box for baby to explore every day  

(Easy, huh?)

Another piece of advice, obviously your little one will have some of their favorite toys that they could spend hours playing with every day. Don't feel as though every toy needs to be rotated out with the manipulative boxes. If your baby loves Sophie the Giraffe, leave Sophie out so they can play with it every day. Also, I don't place big item toys in the boxes, the storage for that would take up way too much space and the large toys are much easier to sort through and grab something different every day.

I made a list of the toys I included in each box for ideas of what to put in your own. Don't think this is set in stone! Place toys in the box you already have around the house or that your baby particularly enjoys! For instance, KK loves C-links to chew on, so even though they're a pretty simple toy, I have some in each box because she likes them so much. Just fill them with what you think is best for your baby!

Box #1 Box #2 Box #3 Box #4 Box #5
Mix & Match Book
Cloth Book
Soft Rattle
C Links
Flower Teether
Owl Toy
Cardboard Book
C Links
Soft Rattle
Cloth Book
Fish Rattle
Play Keys
Play Cell Phone
Cardboard Book
Alphabet C Links
Soft Rattle
Teddy Bear Rattle
OBall Rattle
Wrist Rattle
Caterpillar Ball Set
Finger Puppets
Sensory Teether
Noise Maker
Cardboard Book
Taggie Blanket
Twisty Teether
Cardboard Book
Owl Rattle
Wrist Rattles
Squeeker Blocks
Soft Rattle

Friday, June 29, 2012

My Maiden Post

So, here it is.

The first post in in my mommy blog. Yes, to those of my friends who know me IRL, I am that nerd. But, I'm not here to tell you what my daughter and I do every day. Nor am I here to discuss my feelings about being a stay at home mom (which can vary daily, let me tell you!). What I am here to do is to share some of the things I'm doing at home with my daughter that are super fun, creative, or just plain make our lives easier. My goal is to post at least once a week with unique posts full of things I've created. But, I may also repost blogs where I steal fabulous ideas and put them to work for myself. Because as every teacher says, you must "beg, borrow, and steal" to be the best at what you do. You'll never be the best if you are always trying to completely reinvent the wheel!

I'm excited to share with everyone out in the vast WWW, and can't wait to see what you add to some of my ideas. I graduated with a degree in Applied Behavioral Science with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education (simply put, I was a preschool teacher) and continued my education by receiving my K-6 certification. I spent two years as a preschool teacher in an mixed age center before taking a job as an elementary school teacher. I was a 2nd grade teacher for 2 years and taught 4th for a year. Now, I'm taking a leave of absence from my teaching career to stay home with my beautiful 5 month old daughter. I couldn't be happier to spend my days teaching, learning, cuddling, and creating with my own child.

Let's get creative!