- Your child shows an interest (follows people into the bathroom, takes off diaper, wants to sit on the potty, etc)
- Your child has words or some other way to communicate with you that he wants to use the potty
- Your child can pull his pants up and down and get on and off the potty (or toilet) by himself.
Why is it that 40 percent of mothers in a study gave solid foods to their baby before doctors say they should?
- "My baby was old enough." (88.9 percent)
- "My baby seemed hungry" (71.4 percent)
- "My baby wanted to eat the food I ate, or in other ways showed an interest in solid food" (66.8 percent)
Last week I read about how Mattel (the toy company) flew in some "influential mommy bloggers" to talk to them about toy cars. Apparently sales are down--and since moms buy toys, they figured they should talk directly to them--especially since moms, being girls and all, might not "get" the whole playing with cars thing. So they talked to them about just how cool cars are, and about how playing with Hot Wheels can improve hand-eye coordination.
The Mouthy Housewives had an absolutely hilarious response (don't read it somewhere you have to be quiet--I laughed out loud), explaining to moms how to play with other Boy Toys such as balls, sticks, Thomas trains, action figures and play tools. But as I thought about it, I think that Mattel's approach has some merit.
I'm good with cars. I like little toy cars. Rewarding my son Liam with them is what clinched potty training for him. We have hundreds of them. Well, maybe not hundreds, although it seems that way sometimes when we are cleaning the toy room. We have a mat that has roads on it and it's fun to play with the cars on that, or on racetracks (although we always seem to lose pieces crucial to holding the tracks together).
I am, however, fuzzy on the value of certain other toys--and I bet some of you guys are too. There have been so many times that I've wondered what exactly the manufacturer was thinking; wouldn't it be great to have the chance to ask? I could write for pages about toys that puzzle me. But in the interest of (your) time, I'll just give three examples:
- What's up with the Lego kits? Whatever happened to, I don't know, using your imagination and building things? And why do the kits have to be so complicated? My son got two for Christmas, and we got in a collective family bad mood trying to keep all the bags properly sorted and follow the directions.
- And those stuffed animals that walk or bark or do whatever--huh? Again, what happened to using your imagination? They always seem so cool, and my kids have asked for them over the years, but it turns out that not only are they boring (the one or two things they do get old pretty quickly) but the hardware that makes them do stuff ensures that they are Really Not Snuggly.
- And (sorry, as a pediatrician, have to get this one in): why do so many video games have to be violent? Even many rated "Everyone" (okay, that's 10+, but the reality is lots of younger kids play them) like Lego Lord of the Rings are reasonably violent. "They are not actually people," my first-grader likes to point out. "They don't die--they can be put back together." This is true, but why do we have to encourage play violence? Wouldn't it be great if the games discouraged violence?
I'm likely not influential enough, but I would love to be flown in by toy manufacturers and fed brunch and have this stuff explained to me. What about you? Which toys would you like explained?
It's of course possible that I'm missing the boat, or just getting old. When I asked my two youngest children (they are 12 and 7) if there were any toys they thought were bad or didn't make sense, their response was quick and simple: "No."
It's a milestone that parents get both excited and scared about: starting solids. Making that transition from breast milk or formula (or both) to stuff that requires spoons is something that many parents in my practice have lots of questions about.
- Babies should start solids between 4 and 6 months.
- They shouldn't start before they are ready to take the food off a spoon (don't mix it in the bottle, please!). If Baby pushes his tongue back or otherwise doesn't seem to know what to do with the spoon, put it away and try again in a week or two.
- While exclusively breastfed babies really don't need solids before 6 months, recent research suggests that adding other foods improves iron levels (although breastfeeding alone doesn't leave babies without enough iron)
- A study just out suggests that starting cereals before 5.5 months (and fish before 9 months and egg before 11 months) can decrease the risk of asthma and allergies.
- No matter what anybody tells you, there is no Best First Food. Cereal (but not rice cereal, because of arsenic) mixed with breast milk or formula, or a pureed fruit or vegetable, is usually what I recommend. If you buy it, get a single ingredient food (the ones marketed for starting out); if you make it, make sure there are no lumps and don't add any salt or sugar or anything else.
- Give each new food a few days (at least three) before adding a new one. That makes it easier to pick up on any signs of an allergy or other problem (like diarrhea or constipation).
- Regular contact with a mental health professional. This might be every week for some children. For other children it might be much less frequent--but all children should have it. It's not okay to just get a prescription for ADHD medication--good mental health care is way more than that.
- The school program they need. Each child is different, but kids with ADHD have different learning styles and needs than kids who don't have it. Far too many of them end up feeling stupid, or doing poorly when a different program could have helped them to succeed--and both have lifelong consequences, whether or not the ADHD hangs around. Know your child's rights--and fight for them. Ask for help if you need it--from your doctor, your teacher, an educational advocate.
- A doctor who is aware of, and screening for, ongoing ADHD and other mental health problems that may come with it. As teens become young adults and enter the adult health care system, it's especially important that they keep this in mind.
In that list of awkward-parenting-moments-we-wish-we-could-avoid-but-can't, talking to daughters about periods is way up there. It's just hard to talk about. It's hard to know what to say, and it's tough because it has to do with sex--my experience is that most parents get a bit squirmy talking to their kids about anything related to sex.