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Let’s Be Friends-Young, Old, and In Between

grandpa teaching toddler grandson to fish

Intergenerational Relationships Rock

Seniors are important in the lives of children. Research confirms the value of intergenerational connections. Although we think first of grandparents, elders need not be biological relatives to forge deep and lasting relationships. Unrelated adults and children easily form strong attachments. Ones built on mutual acceptance and constancy. Children thrive with such unconditional love. Even the most devoted parents cannot provide what elders do.

As a child I was blessed by the presence of elders in my life, some relatives, others not. All happily gave me the gift of their time and undivided attention. Time had a different quality then. We were unhurried, at ease, comfortable. As we spent time together, we talked. Sometimes they shared stories of their childhoods. Other times I asked questions or sought their advice. Always I felt safe and loved.

Pots of Gold, Spring Water, and Blackberry Brambles

I learned about leprechauns and shamrocks from Mrs. Higgins. She shared stories of her native Ireland. Cousin Mary not only  took me for rides in her Model A Ford but also invited me to sleepover in her cabin in the woods. Where water came from a natural spring. And we carried what we needed in buckets.

When my maternal grandmother and I went berry picking, she cautioned me to pay attention to the  brambles. And as we crossed the cow pasture, to keep a sharp eye out for cow patties. Later I made a blackberry roll under her gentle guidance. That’s when I learned that some people know how to cook without recipes. On wood burning stoves.

Mutual Admiration Societies

All strong and nurturing, these women made a positive impression on me. They were accepting and encouraging, generous of spirit. They enjoyed our time together as much as I did. Clearly forged  our own mutual admiration societies.

Everyone benefits from positive relationships across generations. Younger ones learn when and how to lend a hand. While elders, accustomed to their independence, learn to appreciate and accept thoughtful gestures of assistance.

Becoming An Elder

Now I am the elder and recognize, in a way I did not as a parent, that children are drawn to adults who slow their pace and savor the present. Parents have many more responsibilities. Calming their minds and being in the moment often eludes them. Having “been there and done that,” we know the feeling. Current parents benefit from non-judgmental relationships with veteran parents. Hearing messages of encouragement and appreciation make a positive difference. We strengthen bonds all around when we give harried parents a couple of hours of respite. That’s a triple hitter.

We must pay attention if we want to create mutually respectful intergenerational bonds. Listen attentively. Show compassion. Respond gently. If we want those we cherish to be open and honest, we must be willing to acknowledge what we’re being told without judging. Being critical is the least effective way of communicating. We can be honest and compassionate. We have feelings and need to respect ourselves as well as those around us. Honesty and kindness strengthen our connections.

Being Our Best Selves

We need to share our stories. Our lives may seem ordinary to us but to the child who adores us, we are absolutely fascinating. People who have lead extraordinary lives. Moreover we are not only fun but downright funny as well.

Change occurs so quickly now. Even we are in disbelief about all we’ve experienced. We grew up in different times. What once was the norm, now often seems like ancient history. Yet our stories have the power to impress.

Steam trains are relics of the past, yet every week-end, weather permitting, enthusiastic families show up at Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum to ride the 1/8th scale model trains and learn railroad history and lore.

To our adult children (or others of their age), we bring experience. If we’re willing to listen without telling them what they should do, we can offer encouragement as well as  learn something along the way. To quote the Beatles, we all “get by with a little help from…friends.” We live longer, healthier, and happier lives when we’re well connected with people both older and younger than we.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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How Worry Eaters Help Children Manage Fears

Plush character holds worries and cuddles

Everyone Worries

We are all afraid of something. So we worry. Children and adults alike. And that’s not altogether bad. In fact, our fears help keep us safe and motivate us to do whatever we can to avoid what we fear could happen.

Whether we’re 16 or 60, taking the written test to get or renew a driver’s license is likely to make us anxious. We fret over the possibility we’ll fail. That fear motivates us to study the manual until we feel prepared. No guarantee we’ll pass, but we’re more likely to answer the questions correctly and to feel less apprehensive.

Real Versus Imaginary

Children worry too. Sometimes their fears spring from their active imaginations.  Take monsters under the bed. These fearsome creatures may be make-believe, but to the young child not yet clear about the difference between fantasy and reality, the fear is real.

Magical thinkers who view the world from a self-centered perspective, children often believe themselves responsible for events. I recall our then three year old son thinking his grandparents had bought a new car because he’d thrown up in the old one. He worried they were angry with him. In his mind, he’d ruined their car. That months had passed between these unrelated events never occurred to him.

Tools for Managing Worries

Gerd Hahn knows the feeling of losing sleep from worry overload. A creative man, he used his angst and talent to create a solution – Worry Eaters. Engaging, soft, huggable characters, their manta is “Let me carry your worries so you don’t have to.”

Their invitation is simple.

1. Write down or draw your fears and worries.

2. Feed them to me – I’ll hold them for you.

3. We’ll get through this together.

That’s a powerful message. Worry Eaters help children put a name on their worries and express their feelings. As adults we sometimes can’t put a finger on the cause of our distress. Likewise children sometimes cannot find words to explain theirs.

A trusted, caring adult, can help a child figure out and assign a name to what’s bothering him. Through the process of sharing his feelings, the child gains emotional support. By feeding his worries to a Worry Eater, the child lightens his load, creating space between himself and his worries.

A favorite Worry Eater also becomes a confidant. Whenever a child needs an ear, Worry Eater listens. Soft and huggable, Worry Eater comforts and consoles.

Not Just for Little Kids

Worry Eaters help bigger kids too. School age children face daily challenges as they grow and develop. Managing worries in a healthy way is a must. Worry Eaters, like a journal, serve to ease anxiety by encouraging kids to identify and cope with what’s bothering them. The process of naming the worry and feeding it to a Worry Eater symbolically creates space for problem-solving.

Customers have purchased Worry Eaters for their young adult children too. I recall one buying two to send daughters in law school. She figured – and you know she’s right on – those young women had plenty of worries in need of holding.

Worry Eaters in Therapeutic Situations

I credit my daughter-in-law with this idea. Having individual Worry Eaters for every little kid client is expensive. What she suggests is creating a file box with an envelope for each client. Between sessions transfer the worries to these envelopes for safe keeping and quick retrieval.

Something for Everyone

Worry Eaters help children (and their adults) express and cope with their worries in a healthy way. With two sizes and an array of delightful characters-five available both large and small-you’re sure to find a Worry Eater perfect for every worrier in your life.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

 

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Looking Back, Moving Forward

severely premature newborn
Previously I wrote on two topics that touch all of us – how our lives can change forever in a heartbeat and how staying calm empowers us to carry on. Lest we forget, the universe sends reminders from time to time.
The World Turned Upside Down
At birth, every child transforms the lives of its family. Daily living will never be as it was. That’s a given. When a child arrives at 25 weeks, two days gestation weighing 1 1/2 pounds, the world turns upside down. Obviously unexpected and clearly life-threatening, the situation requires everyone to remain calm, despite intense emotions. Keeping calm makes carrying on possible and insures the best possible outcome.
Entering A Parallel Universe
Most families never experience such an event. Those who have known how terrifying it is, even when the birth occurs in a hospital with top tier neonatal facilities. Such Neonatal Intensive Care Units are marvels of technology staffed with specially trained doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists. Each infant is cared for by her own highly skilled nurse. To enter such a unit is to enter a parallel universe. Going there for the first time took my breath away.
My daughter-in-law recalls being in shock and feeling queasy on her first visit. Overwhelmed by monitors displaying information she didn’t yet know how to interpret and afraid to look at her daughter, she remembers the compassion of the nurse as she gently encouraged her to stop looking at the monitors and look at her baby, saying “I’ll look at the monitors. That’s my job. You look at your baby.”
I recall feeling apprehensive about being there and about what lay ahead for our only grandchild. Astonished by her delicate beauty, thick hair, and skin so thin I could see her heart beating. And dismayed by the enormity of the challenges she faced.
Acknowledging Feelings
That’s an invitation, however ill-timed, to acknowledge all the feelings that come with this experience. Doing so is essential self-care – imperative for keeping calm and carrying on. This journey is the ultimate rollercoaster ride. I’ve never relished the ups and downs, twists and turns of a rollercoaster, and even those who do can appreciate the difference between living on a roller coaster and a thrilling ride at an amusement park.
Counting Blessings
Our family has been blessed by what hasn’t happened as well as by what has. That’s life in NICU. The range of challenges is staggering. Every situation is unique yet shares common threads. When schedules overlap, parents become acquainted, exchange information, and offer encouragement.
 Although we do not know the parents and other grands, we appreciate their plight and exchange greetings in passing. Carrying on takes on new meaning when everyone is literally in “the same boat.” The journey is long and exhausting. A nod or a smile brings comfort and encouragement. Small gestures make a big difference.
Bundle of Joy
Ciera and her parents began enjoying skin time when she was four weeks old. She contentedly snuggled. My best Christmas gift ever was being able to hold her on Christmas Eve, the day she turned seven weeks old. By 36 weeks gestation, she had shed many tubes, lines, and leads.
Celebrating Milestones
After a nurse moved the feeding tube from her mouth to her nose, she became giddy with joy. She delighted in being free from that nuisance. This is not our imagination. She smiled more than ever and took joy in testing how far she could stick out her tongue and how wide she could open her mouth.
Discovering Likes and Dislikes
Ciera likes the sound of words beginning with “p” and “s”, an observation her mother tested out after I reported her delight in the word “purple.” She smiles every time she hears the word. She also likes the sound of peaches, pears, and plums, but not of broccoli.
Settling In 
She left the NICU at three months old, only to be readmitted six days later. After 12 days, she was once again in her own bassinet, adjusting to life on the outside. And so the journey continues. We’re all acutely aware that we’re still on that roller coaster, subject to unexpected, high speed twists and turns, and yes, that’s scary. But as her mother says, “we’ve got this.”
We celebrate each milestone and those professionals who worked tirelessly and compassionately to insure Ciera not only survived severe prematurity but thrives. Our favorite neonatologist reminds us to think of her age in terms of her due date, not her birth date. Wise counsel. That’s where she is. So newborn, first time parents, and never-expected-yet-delighted-to-be grandparents are all adjusting to our new reality, grateful for the opportunity to grow together.
Learning New Tricks
The first time she came to spend an afternoon with us, all went well, despite the learning curve that comes when the time between becoming parents and grandparents is 40 years. We laughed when our son called to express his gratitude for the free time and said, “Mom, did you realize you’d put her diaper on backwards?” “Son,” I replied, “do you think I’d have done that if I’d known front from back?” Four decades ago his diapers were cotton, secured with pins, and worn under plastic pants. Current diapering practices are but one of the new tricks we old dogs have learned.
We focus on how “baby girl” lights up our world and delight in holding her, sharing family stories, reading snippets of Dr. Seuss, and singing the purple people eater song, a fave for the girl who likes the sound of the letter p.

 

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Hats Off to Child Life Professionals Worldwide

baby resting on father

March is Child Life Month, a time for raising awareness of the psycho-social needs of pediatric patients and their families and celebrating the child life professionals who support those needs. Illnesses and injuries are always frightening. Diagnostic testing and treatments are too. That’s when the presence of a child life professional makes all the difference.

Educated in child development and how illness and injury impact children, child life specialists offer evidence-based, developmentally appropriate support. By providing information, procedural preparation, distraction, and therapeutic play, child life specialists help children cope with the uncertainties and fear that accompany being in hospital. Children experience less distress and are better able to manage their feelings as a result.

Child life specialists advocate practices that minimize distress. They encourage parental presence with guidance, comfort positions, and distraction during procedures. Comfort positions provide both physical and emotional comfort. Remaining calm is easier when a child is physically comfortable and emotionally supported. Procedures go more smoothly, children experience less pain, and what began as a frightening experience becomes easier for everyone to deal with.

Recently our micro-premie granddaughter benefitted from a medical staff aware of comfort positions. Experiencing a problem requiring readmission to NICU, she entered through the emergency department. During admission, she lay contently against her father’s chest. Once in an exam room, staff suggested he lie down on the bed with her on his chest – the perfect comfort position for her exam and initial treatment. Transport maintained that position on the trip to NICU. Parents and child alike were comforted by the compassionate care provided. An unexpected, frightening experience became manageable.   

Our family salutes child life professionals worldwide. Your efforts have transformed attitudes and practices for the benefit of children and their families, and we’re grateful.

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Rain, Rain Come Our Way

girl with rain boots jumping in puddle

After years of drought, we experienced the wettest January in more than a decade, and I celebrated every drop. Granted inclement weather poses challenges, from rain slick streets and highways to mud flows and flooding. Yet week after week of sunny skies during the winter creates severe water storages. Rainfall is absolutely essential.

Shelter In Place

People tend to stay indoors when anything wet begins falling from the sky. I readily admit to  savoring every opportunity to curl up with an engaging book and read and nap the day away. Some people watch favorite movies or channel surf until something interesting catches their eye. Others take pleasure in assembling pots of delicious homemade soup or baking favorite treats. Those passionate about a craft likely lose themselves in their latest project. Sooner than later, however, almost everyone comes down with cabin fever, feeling cooped up and restless.

Head for the Door

Who says we have to stay indoors? In fact, getting outside does wonders for what ails us. All we need is proper clothing for the conditions and a spirit of adventure. Dress yourself and the kids in waterproof boots, pants, and jackets, pull on gloves and a hat, and head out the door.

Splash in  Puddles

Walking in rain or snow is invigorating. Decades ago when our son Edward was four years old, we had 10 consecutive days of rain. And everyday we’d don our wet weather gear and take a walk. Always in search of puddles, he happily splashed his way around the neighborhood. Watching him delighted me.

Engage Your Senses

Engage your senses and experience the world around you. Breathe in the fresh, cold air. Open your mouth, stick out your tongue, and taste what’s falling. Feel it fall against your face. Watch as puddles form or powder covers the ground. The world looks altogether different with rain dripping off leaves and running in gutters or blanketed by fresh snow. Listen to the sound of rain falling and the silence of falling snow. Splash around in puddles. Make angels in the snow.

Savor Your Experiences

When you’ve had enough, go inside, shed your outer wear, and head to the kitchen for a steaming bowl of soup or cup of cocoa. Expand the rainy/snowy day experience. Talk about your exploits. What did each person enjoy most? What was the least fun? Write stories, draw pictures of what you saw and all you did. Savor the memories.

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PlayopolisToys Celebrates Inclusive Play

kids + Magformers

 

Play is any activity that gives us pleasure and so captures our attention that we become one with the process. The act of playing gives us a sense of well-being and accomplishment. Our worries melt away, and we’re enriched by the experience.

Play is essential. Interacting with toys that invite open-ended, self-directed play, children develop skills and learn at their own pace. Play also builds bridges among children with different abilities. PlayopolisToys values inclusive play and sells developmental, distraction, and sensory toys that meet the diverse needs of all Citizens of Play.

Explore PlayopolisToys. You’ll find kid-approved toys endorsed by professionals and parents alike for their proven benefits.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Emotional Intelligence

From birth some children are easy going and easily soothed. Others arrive “kicking and screaming,” seemingly demanding we address their needs posthaste. Whatever their dispositions, infants are dependent on adults for nurturance. When someone responds consistently and lovingly to his/her cues, the infant learns that needs will be met and feelings respected. This creates attachment and builds trust, both essential elements in emotional well-being. Sadly many infants are not consistently nurtured, a situation that makes developing healthy relationships with others challenging.

And many well nurtured children have disorders that make social interaction difficult. Those with autism spectrum disorders have to learn social skills that come more naturally to others. Making eye contact, learning to interpret facial expressions and body language, and participating in a conversation are challenging and require patient, consistent encouragement from family and friends.

Role playing social situations helps build social skills; stories and games can too.

Eggspressions combines a storybook and six expressive wooden eggs to create a role-playing activity that helps children identify six basic feelings, communicate effectively, and collectively solve a problem. By sharing their feelings and working together, players figure out a happy solution to a challenge.

Eggspressions

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Ways to Become A More Creative Adult

Like children, adults function best when we’re being creative. Question is, how can we become more creative? I’m thinking the answer lies in learning to play more. By that I mean giving ourselves permission to become so engrossed in a pleasurable activity that we lose track of time. We relax and regenerate. We’re then able to pick up where we left off with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

Think about how seldom we do that. We have responsibilities and seemingly endless demands on our time. And yet how well we meet those obligations depends on state of well-being. When we’re exhausted and frazzled – at our wit’s end – we’re hard pressed to accomplish anything.

Call a time-out. Head for the door. Take a walk. Pay attention to the surroundings. The physical activity reduces stress and stimulates the mind. The change of scenery changes our focus and inspires new ways of thinking. Returning relaxed, we’re more productive, better able to deal with the tasks at hand.

Beyond time-outs, we need time off. Time to breathe deeply and sigh away tension. To feel ourselves unwind. To relax deeply.

Consider setting aside blocks of time for play, whether alone or with others whose company brings pleasure. Curl up with a book. Pursue a hobby for the pure pleasure the activity provides.

Play is about having fun, about creating for ourselves a sense of well-being. Worrying about outcomes denies us the restorative benefits of play.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play