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Brandon 2.25 Years Summary

Brandon has grown by leaps and bounds these past few months. I feel like he’s turned into a little boy and has truly left his baby days behind. We are so proud of the little man he is becoming. Many of the struggles I mentioned in his last summary have worked themselves out, mainly due to his major increase in vocabulary. His talking has increased 10 fold. We love being able to actually communicate with him and are constantly amused at the things he says. One of the first real sentences he ever said took place after dinner when I was asking him if he wanted a cookie. He quickly and enthusiastically replied, “I LOVE COOKIES!” It was a major turning point for him and now the words just won’t stop coming.

Brandon started school back in September. We were hesitant about it at first, since he was just barely two (only in NYC would 2 days a week for 2.5 hours of school cost as much as most college tuitions – but that’s a whole other topic!), but he absolutely loves it! He asks me daily if he can go back to school. He loves his teachers, classmates, even his puppy backpack. We went through a few days where he would need to be coaxed into the classroom before I left, but now I am totally forgotten once the room/toys/friends are in sight. Why do I have the feeling that he won’t approach high school with the same amount of gusto??

He remains a super sweet kid, and his teachers tell me all the time that he loves to sit in their laps during story time and is giving them hugs and high-fives the whole morning. He does the same with all his friends & family, even Rylan gets hugged before bedtime and naps. Brothers hugging is enough to make my heart melt. I’m so glad he is a cuddler, because every time I get a little sad that he is growing up, he will gladly let me hold and snuggle with him for a few minutes. Again, I don’t really see this lasting into his high school days. 🙂 On this same note, Brandon has been a really great big brother to Rylan. He actually likes to interact with him now, and when he got a new truck the other day, he immediately ran in to “show RaRa!” These are the sweet moments I want to lock away and remember forever. Rylan, in return, could not possibly idolize his big brother more.

Brandon continues to love and be a total whiz with the ipad. He has a very limited amount of time with it each day (and he has to choose between it and tv), but it’s really amazing to see him work it. He especially loves this Starfall ABC app. You can imagine mine and Brad’s surprise when we were eating dinner the other night and all of a sudden he spouts off all the letters of his name which are written on his place mat (even lowercase). We proceeded to jump over to our foam floor mat that has a bunch of letters on it and he could name all of them too. Guess he’s learning something from the ipad after all!! When he isn’t enthralled in technology, in typical boy fashion, his obsession right now is with anything with wheels. Trucks, cars, choo-choos – he loves it all. There are constantly races going on and many, many crashes. He also loves to cook with me. We got this learning tower not long ago and it’s been the best. He stands on it and holds his elmo spoon and helps me stir, pour, and measure practically any time I bake or am doing something away from the stove.

I can’t wait for the upcoming holidays – he already asks for new toys daily, so I know Christmas this year is going to blow his mind! And maybe Halloween will help him put on a few pounds. 🙂 We love you sweet boy!

Here’s a typical day for Brandon at 27 months:

7:20 – wake-up, get dressed, play while Mom feeds Rylan
7:45 – breakfast
8:15 – outside!! (School from 8:45-11:30 2 days a week)
9:30 – playtime with mom (learning activities/crafts/baking)
10:30 – independent play
11 – free play with Rylan
11:30 – dvd or Ipad
12 – lunch
12:45-3:15/3:30 – nap
3:30 – snack & play/outing
5 – independent play
5:30 – dvd or Ipad
6 – Dad comes home (highlight of his day!) and dinner
7 – bath with Dad and bottle of pediasure, family reading time, brush teeth
7:30 – Bed!!

All photos courtesy of the amazing Laura Stone of Artstar Photography.

Independent Play – Moving to Room Time

I got a lot of positive feedback from my first Independent Play post, so I thought I would continue it, and share some thoughts on how to keep it in place for your older child. Obviously, there will come a point when your toddler will no longer want to play in a playpen. I would say somewhere in the 18-24 month range, your child is going to be ready to move to doing independent play in their room. Room time can be a wonderful thing – it allows for more play options for your child, a wider space, and hopefully, some time for you as a parent to get things done while your child is happily entertained. It forces them to not only find ways to play by themselves, but to also choose between various options. I find that Brandon behaves better and is more focused throughout the day when he has his time to play alone. What a nice treat for mommy and child!

Here are my keys for moving from the playpen to room time:

  • Make it Safe – it goes without saying, but you must baby proof the entire room. We have locks on the closet doors, outlet covers, straps for the furniture, etc. Watch your child while they play in their room and notice if anything seems like it potentially could be dangerous. Always ere on the safe side.
  • Limit the Fun – when you are just starting out, having all their toys accessible to them can be totally overwhelming for a child. It can also cause for a huge mess since they will probably pull out anything they can get their hands on. Limit what they can get out (at least to start), and keep the toys in rotation so that they stay interesting. I actually have a special basket that I keep in the closet that is full of toys that Brandon only gets to play with during this time. He has his regular toys as well, but these additional “special” toys add extra appeal.
  • Give them Boundaries – after spending months in the rather confined space of a playpen, a whole room can be very intimidating. My husband thought of a great way to help with this, and actually brought out the mat insert that sits in the playpen and put it in the center of the room. Brandon spent the whole first week on that mat before he eventually ventured off (further proof that kids actually respond well to some boundaries!). We still put out a special quilt that my mom made during his room time, and he usually sits on it most of the time. Moms of rambunctious boys – you will be totally shocked how your little crazy man will sit still when he is finally given the option!
  • Be Accessible, but Hidden – a baby gate in the door frame is the perfect way to keep your child in their room, without closing the door. Try to stay out of your child’s line of sight, as I’ve found that once they see mommy or daddy they get distracted and will often want to come out to play. Just like when they were younger, a monitor (especially a video one – just because it’s fun to see what your child does when he thinks no one is looking!), is really helpful here.
  • Give it Time – once you move to room time, you really can, and arguably should, stretch the amount of time your child spends playing alone. I have personally seen the benefits a child reaps when they are forced to figure things out for themselves, and you need to provide them with enough time to do so. I would try and do at least 30 minutes. We do 30 minutes with Brandon (who is now 26 months) twice a day when he doesn’t have school (once when he does). You could also do one hour once a day. Fit it into your schedule and try and make it a consistent time each day so that your child knows what to expect. A great tip is to get a timer and set it for the amount of time, that way your child knows when it goes off that time is up, not when they just decide to whine for you to come and get them.
  • Expect Good/Bad Days – there are inevitably going to be days when your child does not want to play by themselves, even after you’ve worked them into it at the beginning (yes, there might be some tears and whining when you start out – stay strong and keep the time frame short, they will grow to love it!). I’ve come to find with my own children that they get a little more clingy when they are either teething or about to get sick. On these days, I don’t force the issue and I just skip independent play. But children are smart, and if they realize that putting on a pout will get them their way, then they will continue to do so even after that little cold is gone. At that point, it might take tough love for a day, but we get back into our routine and they are good as gold before you know it. On the flip side, there are many days when Brandon doesn’t even want to leave his room after his time is done. He will figure out a new toy (one that he would have whined to me about helping him had I been there) and want to keep playing. This is what it’s all about.
  • Clean Up – another great skill for your child to learn is the art of cleaning up the messes we make. At the end of each room time, help your child to put away their toys and leave their room tidy. Sing the song and slap high-fives when they’re done, most kids (surprisingly) seem to think this part is almost a game.

I am (rather obviously) a huge advocate for independent play. It’s good for the kids while they are doing it and allows me the time I need to accomplish things, so that I can focus solely on the kids once they are done. Please let me know if you have any comments on what has worked for you and your family, and whether your kids like to play by themselves – I always love to hear new ideas!

Setting the Mood for Sleep

Setting the appropriate mood is one of the most important things you can do to encourage your child to sleep. I think it’s helpful to remember that you can’t actually force your child to sleep, but you can make the environment as relaxing, comfortable, and conducive to sleep as possible. Like most things, consistency is the key, and maintaining a similar sleep environment and routine will allow your child to anticipate bed and nap times. Here’s what has helped my kids:

1) Keep it dark – Most people simply sleep better in the dark. I recommend getting blackout shades (these are a great, inexpensive option) or even taping up black garbage bags over the windows. If you are able to blackout a room during the day, there will be consistency between night and daytime and you won’t have to worry about early wakings due to sunlight. While some older children might need a small nightlight, young babies don’t yet know to be afraid of the dark and can actually be distracted by small lights (like on a monitor or temperature device). We use black tape to cover over any small lights in the room.

2) Play with the temperature – I know that a lot of experts argue that we need cooler temperatures to sleep well, but I think that a comfortable sleeping temperature is a personal preference and you need to experiment to see what works best for your child. Some like to be bundled up, but have the air at a cooler temp, while others might want minimal clothing in a warmer environment. Pay attention to your child and see when they tend to sleep best, and also what they were wearing. Personally, my kids sleep in full footed sleepers (or long pjs with socks) year round, but Rylan likes it set cooler than Brandon. For infants, you have to be mindful that you don’t want to overdress them since it can be a SIDS risk.

3) Love the lovey – An age appropriate lovey can be a huge comfort to a child at bedtime. If you are strict about it, and allow the lovey only to be used during sleep times, it can also be something that your child actually looks forward to come bed or nap time. This is important to remember if you don’t want your future toddler to walk around with a worn out blankie all day. Personally, I don’t have too many qualms about this, and Brandon can have his lovey if we are traveling, watching tv, or going for a long run – but that’s a whole different topic! A lovey is also a great replacement for the pacifier. I am not a fan of the pacifier. If your child is old enough to locate their pacifier in the dark and pop it in their mouths, that’s fine, but I don’t want to be the mama doing that for them all hours of the night. My kids both suck on their lovies, and have been able to find them themselves if they are dropped since they were a few months old (3 months is when I first introduced a lovey to Rylan).

4) White noise – A white noise machine is an easy way to block out any errant noise and can be very soothing to a baby. The machine should be positioned far from the crib, but turned to a level loud enough that it will actually be effective. We bring ours with us every time we travel, which is a great way to signal to your child that it’s time to sleep even if they are in a different environment.

5) Make it comfy – A comfortable but firm mattress is a good place to splurge when it comes to the nursery. Some kids can sleep on harder surfaces, like a playpen, but if we are traveling we like to line the playpen with quilts (underneath the sheet) so that it is more cushioned. Both my kids also like fuzzier sheets.

6) Have a consistent routine – This is probably the most important point. The actions you take before you bring your child into their room (which has been prepped accordingly) should be consistent so as to give them a clear signal that it is time for them to relax and sleep. Before bed you might do a bath, bottle, book, and prayers. You can then do a modified version before naps – like a book & prayers. I also like to do the pre-bed/nap routine outside of the nursery, so that when we walk into the room it is already dark and the noise machine is on. Whatever it is you do, just try and stick to it each time you put your child to sleep.

What are some of the things that you’ve done to help make your child’s environment more sleep conducive? Have you stuck with the same things or has your child’s preferences changed over time?

Brandon 2 Year Summary

I know Brandon has been 2 for a while now, but I’m finally getting around to writing about his great 2-year old self. I’m in a bit of denial, I feel like we were just celebrating his first birthday. Guess time flies when you add a pregnancy and newborn to the mix! I’m really trying to live in the moment with him, as I’m sure with school and activities increasing in the coming years we won’t have as much quality time (also trying not to daydream about the bazillion things I’ll be able to do with him in school all day!).

Brandon has really come out of his shell this past year. He always erred on the timid side, but has become much more assertive with adults and children and has also gotten more involved in the classes and playdates that we go to. This summer we’ve done soccer and music classes in the park, and he really loves both. At the end of soccer he is dog tired and dirty, so if nothing else, it’s a great way for him to run out some of his energy. Music has always been one of his favorite things (he must get this from Brad) and currently, he can often be found walking the house with his mini guitar in hand. There’s always some kind of kiddie music playing here. Mickey hotdog song is the most requested. 🙂

Our biggest struggles recently have been with whining and eating. He babbles constantly and his word know-how is growing every day, but he gets really frustrated when we don’t understand him, which usually leads to whining. He’s only had a handful of what I would call temper tantrums, and we generally put him in his crib to cool off when he does. Hopefully as his vocabulary increases and he learns other ways of asking for what he wants the whining will subside. As for eating, Brandon is a skinny kid who does not like to eat, so we naturally have problems. Normally, I would say that he will eat when he’s hungry and not to worry about it, but weight actually is a bit of an issue for him so we’ve tried nearly everything to get him additional calories. Dessert at every meal, creative & fun presentation, serving something I know he likes, etc. Not too much has worked and I am certainly open to ideas! Lately, I’ve been serving his meals in muffin tins and not letting him leave the table without at least trying something from every section. This has cut down on some of our battles, but we are still giving him pediasure after dinner to make sure he gets at least those calories before bed.

Goal!

On a positive note with regards to the usual toddler struggles, sleeping is great! He still does nearly 12 hours at night and takes a 2 1/2 – 3 hour nap every day. I am so glad we did sleep training with him early on, it has paid dividends at this point. He’s still in a crib, but before Rylan came, we bought him a new one that converts to an adorable toddler bed, so we can switch whenever he seems to be ready for it. He’s totally content in the crib right now so I don’t think we will switch for a while. Independent play has also been amazing. While the Ipad is currently his favorite toy, he will play beautifully by himself in his room for up to an hour at a time. I love it!

One of the biggest changes for Brandon this year was that he became a big brother. For the most part, Brandon thinks of Rylan in a similar capacity to the dog. He likes him and is often amused by the funny baby things he does, but he still wants to know that he can have Mommy & Daddy’s attention when desired. He’s been incredibly gentle thus far. He really enjoys bringing out all the baby toys and piling them on top of Rylan. He is also Daddy’s helper at bath time and will use a cup to rinse off the baby. Rylan doesn’t seem to mind, and is almost always entertained and enthralled with his big brother.

This has been an amazing time for me as a mother, as I feel like you can practically see the wheels turning and the connections being made in that little 2-year old mind. He’s starting school in a month and I can only imagine what he is going to come home with to show us.

Here’s a typical day in the life of Brandon:

7:15 – wake-up, get dressed, drink juice/eat cheerios/play in nursery while Mom feeds Rylan
7:45 – breakfast
8:15 – chores (clear table, brush teeth, feed Suki)
8:30 – room time (independent play)
9-11 – outside for class/run/gym/playground
11 – free play
11:30 – dvd or Ipad
12 – lunch
12:45-3:30 – nap
3:30 – snack & play!
4:30 – learning/crafts with Mom
5 – room time (independent play)
5:30 – dvd or Ipad
6 – Dad comes home (highlight of his day!) and dinner
7 – bath with Dad and bottle of pediasure, family reading time
7:30 – Bed!!

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