toddlers

6 Ways to Wear Your Toddler Out.

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Toddlers have a ton of energy. I know—understatement of the year. My daughter is no exception. Friends of ours that have toddler boys tell me all the time that Claire has the energy of a boy. My wife and I have realized that Claire is definitely the most energetic girl in our group of friends. Actually, Claire is the most energetic out of the girls and boys. Don’t get me wrong; I love my daughter’s energy and enthusiasm for life. It’s just that her energy takes so much of mine.

We have found that if Claire doesn’t do something that can use up her energy, life will get stupid real fast for all of us. So here is this father’s recommendation for wearing your toddler out:


Season Passes:
Amusement parks are not the only places that offer season passes. We have a children’s museum, a local farm, and one of those fall plantation type places that all offer season passes very close to our home. I recommend getting one for each season. Ask for them as birthday, or Christmas presents to lessen the financial burden on you. My daughter loves going to the farm in the summer and early fall. Claire literally chases chickens, plays in a tree house and builds sandcastles (giant pile of sand provided). In the winter months the children’s museum is a place to run around away from the elements and still burn energy. We literally just got back from a plantation farm that’s open only during the fall and Claire ran, jumped, chased animals, saw pigs race and is now in deep sleep.

Malls: My daughter and I have made it a tradition now of going to Costco for a hot dog, soda and slice of pizza. The Costco is connected to the local mall, which allows for us on rainy days to get lunch and also walk around the mall. The mall has an indoor play place that she can go and play with other kids. My neighbor and I did this a few weeks ago and it was great. The play place is enclosed and offers comfortable seating for worn our parents to sit and watch their child’s batteries drain. If there isn’t a play place in the mall you can play chase, I spy, and many more games that have your kids moving and running around.

Classes: Claire has taken a ballet class and now is doing a gymnastics class. Again, this could be something you ask for as birthday or Christmas presents since it can be expensive. My wife recently took Claire to a gymnastics class and texted me after saying, “Claire is sweating from class.” At first I didn’t really know why she was texting that to me, but later that day I found out that all that energy burned resulted in an epic nap and some quiet study time for mommy.

Backyard: We were blessed to have received a free swing and slide play set for our backyard. I actually built the beam enclosure for Claire to be able to play in it. For us, the backyard is a simple way to burn some energy—especially on those days where you don’t have the desire to go anywhere. Whether Claire plays on her play set, or chases the dog we are always able to wear her out this way. Having different games that require thinking, skill and exercise are perfect for backyard fun.

Chores: So I do a lot of chores around our home since my wife is spending most of her time studying for her nurse practitioner degree. Getting Claire to help me with chores is another way to burn some energy. I will sweep our floor and then have Claire take her little toddler broom and sweep up behind me. Claire helps with the laundry, whether it’s putting it in or taking it out. Claire also helps with prepping meals (as best a 2 year old can). These things take more time when my daughter is helping, but it gives her the satisfaction of having helped me. Plus it helps her burn energy.

Special Events: Check your towns website, or newspaper for special events that may be taking place. It is not uncommon for fairs, shows, etc. to come into town. Although these are not things you can consistently do with the kiddos, it may be a one-time thing that really excites them and more importantly wears them out.

 

Hope these are some helpful ideas to help wear the kiddos out.

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Categories: boys and girls, chores, dad and the kids, daddy date, daddy time, dads, daughters, energetic toddlers, fatherhood, ideas for play, napping, naptime, toddlers | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nap Time Woes

claire in bed

At a blissful time in our daughter’s young life we were getting two, 3-hour naps a day. It was amazing. The amount of stuff that my wife and I could do was quite impressive. I personally broke the first 3 hours into chores, followed by the second 3-hour nap with some TV, video games, or napping myself. There were moments when Claire’s first nap wasn’t a full three hours, but that was okay—you always had the second nap to make up for it.

The day finally came when that late morning nap disappeared. I wasn’t informed. There was no, “Hey dad you might wanna brace yourself for this.” It was taken from me. I’m not going to lie; there were some man tears shed over the loss of the first nap. Eventually, I was able to pull through and condense all I needed to do into the only remaining 3-hour nap. Many an awesome project had been accomplished via the naptime we had left. Rebuilding the patio deck and painting/remodeling the downstairs basement were the major things (each took 3 months worth of nap-time, and bed time sleep).

I think that dreaded day is almost here. I knew it would come, but I don’t want it to be here already! In the last few weeks my wife and I have both noticed its presence slowly creeping in. Of course, I am alluding to Claire not napping anymore.

(Pause for man tears)

The last few days Claire has not napped. Honestly, it is my fault. The Saturday it first happened we were visiting family and Claire was playing with her cousin. My mom didn’t think to put them down, and honestly they didn’t show signs of sleepiness. The next day I made sure I put her down for her nap. I had her milk, storybook and doll all set up. Claire went to her room and climbed into bed without an issue. “Have a good nap” was said, and I proceeded to go and read for a while. I could hear Claire playing in the room through the monitor. It was clear that there would be no nap in that room. ‘She might need me to go in there and remind her’ I thought to myself. I went in and told her to settle down, but 5 minutes later she was hollering, “Papi, come here!”

There are those moments in life where one is left baffled at what to do, say or think. This is one of those moments.

Categories: daughters, home and family, napping, naptime, not napping, toddlers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Make Eye Contact!

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Every now and then our daughter will do things that we want her to do without having to tell her. I know it’s shocking to me too. Examples of such things range from eating all the food on her plate, to cleaning up after a coloring session, or simply sitting quietly while playing with her toys. Usually I am thrilled to see that Claire will do these things without us having to say anything. I will stare at her as she chomps away at her food. I will smile proudly as she cleans up her messes. I will gaze in wonder as I see my little girl’s imagination at work while she plays.

And that’s usually when it all goes down hill. When we make eye contact.

As I stare at my daughter from across the room she gets the sense that I am looking at her and if our eyes lock it causes her to snap out of her good-behavior-mode. It’s the weirdest thing in the world. Claire will go from well-behaved kid to insane toddler in a matter of seconds. I’m not really sure why my wife or I locking eyes with her can cause Claire to change what she is doing, but we have quickly realized that if we do not want to interrupt her calm, cool and collected moments we cannot make eye contact with her.

I recently read an article that says that the human mind can actually sense when someone is staring at you—it is quite fascinating. There is a “gaze detection system” in our brain that is responsible for recognizing when someone is staring at you. There are clear benefits to this but when it comes to our toddler we have realized that we do not want to be detected by the said system. When Claire’s “gaze detection system” gets her to lock eyes with us she will stop eating, recognize that she was cleaning up instead of making a mess, or realize that she has been quiet for more than a minute and therefore must do a lap around the house while screaming at the top of her lungs.

As with most things toddler, there is a balance with how you deal with them. Apparently locking eyes with them is also something that we need to find a sweet spot for. My wife and I will call each other out during dinner if we stare at Claire for too long. “Don’t make eye contact!” will come out of one of our mouths. Quickly we will stare at our plates hoping the “gaze detection system” was not alerted and Claire will continue to eat.

Never a dull moment with these little ones that is for sure!

Categories: children, daughters, fatherhood, home and family, kids challenging parents, kids wanting things their way, parent child relationship, toddlers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Two-Year-Old Knows

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My daughter is two and she is totally milking it. There are moments when Claire will develop this strange case of selective hearing. Usually the selective hearing occurs when a command is given that requires her to do something, or to stop doing something. Strangely, mom or dad can be steps away from Claire and she wont be able to hear our commands. “Sweetie, pick up your toys. (Pause) Honey, pick them up. (Pause) Claire!” Huh, maybe she got a hearing problem.

There are times when Claire will become immobile when it is time for her to go to bed. It is curious how her legs will give away during this specific moment. “Hun, did Claire hurt her leg?” “No, why?” says my wife. I respond, “She’s holding it and saying it hurts.” Claire will grow to be a great soccer player some day.

The strangest of all is the sudden, inexplicable, ravenous hunger that manifests the moment she is climbing into bed for the night. “Papi I need to eat!” “You literally just ate sweetie.” Claire counters with, “Please! Papi. I wannit.” I have learned that this is a last resort tactic to staying up so I don’t fall for it anymore.

Some will say, “She’s two and doesn’t know any better.” The thing is I think she totally knows what she is doing. I know she’s two, and technically full reasoning isn’t there, she can’t control her emotions, yada, yada, but I’m telling you—she knows. Maybe not completely, but she knows enough.

The other day Claire was given a 30-minute slot of time to watch Thomas and Friends, when I started calling her to get ready for bath time she looked at me from the corner of her eye and gave this ever so slight sinister smile. I’ve grown accustomed to expect trouble when that smile comes out so I watched her carefully. Claire grabbed the TV remote and hid it under the cushion on the chair across from her and then sat back on the sofa as if nothing had happened.

She knows!

How about the time I told her if she finished her food we would go outside and play. Claire complained that she didn’t want to eat. I sternly told her she needed to eat some of the food, “Eat 4 nuggets and we will go out.” I turned around to wash some dishes in the sink and a minute or so later I turned to look at Claire’s progress. The 4 nuggets were gone. I look at Claire who stares back with a look of satisfaction. I think to myself, “there is no way she could have eaten 4 nuggets that fast.” I look over to the left of the dinning room table and Rocky (our dog) gives the plot away. Rocky’s head is hanging low in shame. Claire has figured out that Rocky will consume 4 nuggets in seconds and he is her way to getting outside fast.

She knows!

This two year old knows enough to try and get her way. I am convinced of it. When my daughter gets cranky, mean, or wants things her way she will figure out a way to try and make it work to her advantage. Maybe this is why she is trying to lock me out of the house all the time?

Maybe she knows that I know…

Categories: fatherhood, kids challenging parents, kids wanting things their way, Terrible Twos, toddlers | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bye, Bye Baby

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I walked into my home the other day greeted by the following words from my wife, “Claire is too big to stay in her crib. We need to move her to a toddler bed.” I was puzzled at first.

Baby too big? No crib? Toddler bed?

I responded with a simple, “ok.” My wife began to explain that she had caught our daughter after her nap with her leg over the crib rail and was getting enough momentum to make an escape. When my wife checked to see what the weight and height is for switching to a toddler bed Claire had reached those measurements a while ago.

After eating dinner we spent the next 45 minutes putting together a toddler bed that had been given to us. As I assembled the toddler bed, my wife disassembled the crib. There was that “awww, she’s a big girl!” sentiment, mixed with a “she’s a big…girl…?” feeling. It was really weird. It felt like we were burring someone while new life was springing up right next to it. Claire was super excited at the reality that she was getting a new bed. There was no mourning on her end. No hesitancy to see the comfort of those four walls disappear before her very eyes. Meanwhile I am holding on to an Allen wrench in the fetal position wondering to myself, ‘what is happening?’

They outgrow things: clothes, car seats, and shoes. I have seen Claire outgrow several of these items, but her crib was the last symbol of her “babyness”. It’s definitely a little sad. My baby isn’t a baby anymore. She’s a little girl. I guess I knew this was going to happen and I understand that it is an inevitable part of life, but its weird. Part of me wants Claire to stay a baby so I can hold her longer and experience her in this oh, so short and unique time of life. However, Claire doesn’t want to be held. “I walk!” she says as she squirms from my arms to get to the ground. “I try!” comes out of her mouth as she attempts to figure things out. I step back and let her do it.

This discovering fatherhood journey has so many twist and turns. One minute I think I’ve got it figured out and the next I feel like I’m starting over again. Being a father is awesome but it is painful. As simple and necessary as it is for Claire to transition to a toddler bed a piece of me hurts inside.

It’s part of the process I guess.

Categories: cribs, daughters, fatherhood, growing up, outgrowing a crib, toddler bed, toddlers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

6 Ways My Daughter Challenges Me

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My daughter is two years old and she has challenged me more so than many other humans on the planet. At least it feels that way. Here are six ways that my daughter challenges me on a daily basis:

1. Going Outside: I love the outdoors. Somehow in the last few years I have found myself staying indoors even when it’s gorgeous out. Maybe its because I’m tired from working, chores, etc. Maybe its because we have cable and all those DIY shows are so interesting. Whatever the case may be my daughter has no desire to follow daddy in this respect. Claire demands to be let out into the wilderness of our suburban .35 acres. I am falling in love with the outdoors once again.

2. Patience: Lets face it; we can all use more patience. I thought I was patient and then my daughter turned two. Claire is on 100% of the time and she has no desire to slow down or wait for me to catch up. Whether it’s her need for food every 30 minutes, or her ADD style of play I am constantly being pushed to grow in my patience.

3. Letting go: I am supper anal when it comes to order in our home. I want things put away immediately once they are no longer being used. Taking my time with chores, projects, etc. does not compute in my brain. I like to tackle things right away and be done with it. This is not possible in the toddler world. Claire is messy and she is unapologetic about it. My daughter’s creativity and toys are not limited to her bedroom or the living room for that matter and I realize more and more that this is ok…I think.

4. Being fearless: I am always amazed at how little fear my daughter has. Whether it’s diving off some platform at the park or saying, “hello” to the person in front of us at the grocery store she does things that many would never venture to do. I can’t tell you of how many great conversations I have had with strangers because my daughter was willing to engage them.

5. Being Healthier: I use to be in pretty decent shape. I got married and somehow the gym became a place I frequented less and less. Work and family life got more complicated and Chick-fil-a and Chinese food became a quick fix. My daughter helps me to realize that I need to be in good shape in order to run and play with her. Quick, unhealthy meals don’t help me and they definitely don’t set an example for my daughter. I want to live a long time and eating healthy is one way of achieving that.

6. Enjoying Moments: When I am patient with my daughter and I let go off my anal tendencies of order and control I find that I have a space to enjoy the moment at hand. My favorite moments with my daughter are the ones where we simply sit and do nothing. Moments where time seems to stand still and we are simply being father and daughter. This is one of the best things my daughter is doing to challenge me to be a better person.

 

Categories: fatherhood, healthy living, kids challenging parents, living in the moment, Parenting, toddlers | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Little Dictator

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The day begins with breakfast. I have made banana pancakes and they are really good. The little dictator has not had a taste of the pancakes but she yells that this is not what she wants. I try to reason with her but she yells and throws her sippy-cup in protest. I go back to the kitchen and prepare something else. I come back into the dinning room and present my new offering. The little dictator is still not pleased. Apparently she is not in a good mood this morning.

Breakfast ends and we head over to the little dictators toy area. The little dictator wants to play and so do I, but I have to use the bathroom. This is not acceptable to her. The little dictator screams “play!” I tell her that I will be very quick and the little dictator screams some more and demands that we play now. I head to the bathroom in defiance and the little dictator pounds on the door demanding that I stop this disobedience and that I return to the room to play. I leave the bathroom and proceed to fulfill her demands.

Playtime starts off pleasant. The little dictator pulls out her blocks and makes a tower. Not more than a few seconds go by and she demolishes the tower. The little dictator smiles ever so slightly and turns her eyes towards me. I am not sure what she is thinking but I wonder if she is trying to send a message.

The little dictator demands that we now color with her markers. I grant her wish and pull out the drawing pad and markers. The little dictator cannot be limited to such a thing as a drawing pad. Her imagination is much bigger than that. It encompasses the carpet as well. I encourage that she stay on the drawing pad. The little dictator refuses. Markers are taken away and a new rage comes over her. Crying, followed by the usual rant of, “mine! Mine! MINE!”

Suddenly the little dictator realizes that markers are overrated and that she is hungry once again. I sarcastically point out that we have some great pancakes, but the little dictator is not amused. I think sarcasm is beyond her. The little dictator proceeds to the fridge where she awaits for me to open it and grant her whatever she wishes. Ice cream and mangos are at the top of her list. Ice cream is denied, which causes another rage, but quickly she realizes that mangos are just as good. The mangos have just touched the plate and I hear the little dictator calling out, “Sofia! Sofia!” This is the little dictator’s favorite TV show. She is quite obsessed with it. “Sofia! Sofia!” I finally cave and allow her to watch one episode. There is no sound from her for 22 minutes.

Bliss.

The show ends and the little dictator demands that another episode be played. “Sofia! Sofia!” I refuse and a hissy fit ensues. I ignore it and the little dictator proceeds to go play in her room. She calls for me at full force. I go in to see what the little dictator needs and she runs at me full speed and says, “Daddy! Daddy!” She reaches for me and greets me with, “Hi Daddy.” I smile and pick the little dictator up, “hi baby.” I stare into the beautiful bluesih, gray eyes that are before me and smile.

This is my little dictator. My baby girl.

Categories: children, demanding kids, fatherhood, kids wanting things their way, temper tantrums, toddlers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Saying ‘No’

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A few months ago I experienced a pretty emotional moment in parenting. I had heard from parents that this moment was coming and that it is pretty tough. Here’s how it went down. Claire had discovered this magical liquid that when blown from a special wand creates circular spheres of joy that must be chased. Claire was in her “bubble phase”. Playing bubbles had become her new favorite activity and all she wanted was bubbles…all the time.

On this particular day we gave Claire plenty of bubble time since it was an easy thing to do and she loves it so much. As we were getting ready for bath time Claire began to ask to play bubbles again. Repeatedly I said, “no”. Finally, after a few seconds of Claire continuously asking to play bubbles I once again said, “no” a little firmer and proceeded to pick her up. And that’s when it happened. I didn’t see it coming, but its effects where disarming and powerful.

As I bent down to pick Claire up she turned her little head ever so slightly in an angle towards her chest, pouted her lips in sadness and directed her eyes up towards me. It was the saddest face in the history of humanity. EVER! I literally felt my heartbreak and I choked up. My eyes got a little teary. “What is happening?!” I thought to myself. I picked Claire up and proceeded to get her to the bathtub. After I finished bathing Claire, and I had put her down to bed I told my wife what happened. I had experienced the infamous “Pouty Face”. As I said before, I had heard of the power of the Pouty Face and how tough it was to see, but wow! It was some serious stuff.

The Pouty Face is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of toddlers everywhere. Many of them use it well and get their parents to do whatever they want. I think the only reason I did not succumb to it was because I was in mid motion when it happened. I love my daughter and the pouty face she gave me was incredibly saddening and something I honestly don’t ever want to see again. I can see how easy it is for parents to break when their children give them the Pouty Face. I can see parents being so upset at this face that the kids will get whatever they want. I almost caved. I literally almost said, “The hell with bath time lets go play bubbles!”

Kids need to hear ‘no’ often. Giving into their every desire is obviously not okay and absolutely detrimental to family and society in general. Even saying ‘no’ to something good like food, pleasurable activities, bubbles etc. is necessary. Instant gratification helps no one to grow in virtue. I could share a million stories of what a 2 year old will look like after 13 years of parents saying yes to all their “Pouty Face” moments. It isn’t attractive at all.

Not. At. All.

There obviously needs to be discernment involved when saying ‘no’ to things. I’m sure this will look different with every child. My daughter may need to hear ‘no’ more often, but my next kid may not need to hear it much at all. Either way, saying ‘no’ is so important and this dad is discovering that with the infamous Pouty Face ‘no’ is not as simple as ‘no’ sounds.

I’m off to play bubbles…

Categories: boundaries, daughters, discipline, fatherhood, saying no to kids, toddlers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To Jersey and Back

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My cousin got married this past week in New Jersey so the family traveled to partake in the festivities. We have stayed with Claire in hotel rooms before but mostly when she was in her infant stage. Putting her down to sleep as an infant a few feet away from us wasn’t a big deal–she would pretty much sleep through anything and we could carry on. Now as a toddler it is a whole new ball game.

At home we have walls to filter the noise but in the hotel room there was no place with walls to go to, except for the bathroom. As most kids do, Claire needs her nap. A few months ago Claire missed her naptime due to family visiting and it was pretty bad. She wouldn’t go to sleep that night, but not only that it threw her off her schedule for two weeks.

FOR TWO WEEKS!!!

Needless to say Jess and I understand the sacredness of naptime. We are not messing with it. So, in a hotel in Jersey we put Claire down in her playpen and we proceeded to eat our lunch in the only place with separate walls. The bathroom. I know, it’s gross but I much rather eat there than wake my daughter from her nap. TWO WEEKS PEOPLE!

My wife and I had hard tacos and chips. When I went to order this meal I didn’t think of the amount of noise the said tacos and chips would make while eating. Amateurs. I know. But tacos sounded so good, especially when all you can eat in this part of Jersey is Italian. As much as we love Italian you can only have so many cannollis before you lose your cannollis.

Anyways, so I sat on the toilet and my wife sat on the tub. We whispered and ate our food as quietly as possible. It was romantic in a weird sort of way. “I love the way your eyes shine off the porcelain my love.” We finished our quasi-romantic meal and headed ever so quietly to the main living area where Claire slumbered. Jess grabbed her laptop to study and I began to write this blog post on my iPad.

I looked into seeing if hotels have rooms made for large families with separate sleeping quarters and some do, but they are ridiculously expensive. Our hotels website in NJ didn’t seem to have any.

My wife and I were fine with needing to accommodate for nap time, but what do you do when you have more than one child and you cannot afford the presidential sweet your hotel offers with that extra room? I would love to hear what other families do when they travel with multiple kids and have to stay in a hotel.

Categories: children, daughters, fatherhood, hotels, naptime, toddlers, traveling, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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