Welcome to Little Wonders!

The beginning of each school year brings much excitement. First-time families wonder how everything works and how their children will respond to this environment. Returning families may worry about juggling schedules with other siblings. On top of all this are the general challenges of the parenting journey!

Our staff and board members have worked hard over the summer getting ready for this coming year. I’d like to welcome back our tiny but mighty staff, Teachers Suzanne and Maggie, whom I feel so blessed to collaborate and teach with. Welcome to our new group of board members, as well. These dedicated and enthusiastic parents face the challenge of continually enhancing the Little Wonders experience, and their efforts are very much appreciated.

Out of a strong desire for inclusiveness and community, our Board and Staff have chosen the theme of “Creating a Culture of Kindness” for this school year. Aristotle taught this concept centuries ago, “We become good by doing good.” It seems this is a real struggle in today's culture. As a parent, I have struggled with how to encourage good character traits in my own children and now here at Little Wonders we have parents of very young children questioning how to help their little ones develop kindness and other moral traits. We hope to explore how to become good “character coaches,” starting with our classroom communities, emanating into our families and the greater community. We are our children’s first and potentially most powerful character educators, and we look forward to infusing our already rich curriculum with even more great strategies for your toolbox that will help you support your children’s overall development and create a culture of kindness and respect that will make our world a better place.

Mireille McKee

Program Director

Parents’ Favorite Tips

In July we shared some favorite articles of our Little Wonders parents.  For our final post in this series we’re sharing favorite tips and tricks our parents mentioned during our last discussion of the 2017-2018 school year.  

Here is the list!

  • Make masking tape your best friend, it can be used anywhere and anytime. Some examples: ripping, sticking, and tearing while on a plane or somewhere where children need to be confined. Makes great race tracks or roads for little cars and trucks. Great to help teach boundaries.

  • Warnings and choices can truly help with transitions.  “We are going to leave in a bit, so pick one more thing you want to do before leaving” or “we are going to leave the park now, do you want to carry the lunch bags or my keys?”.

  • Notice and encourage curiosity.  One of my favorite ways is through cooking. The learning tower is useful tool!

  • When early in potty training, use sticky notes over sensors on public toilets so kids don’t get scared at the flushing sound when they get up from toilet.

  • Remember to wait a bit when asking children to do things. It takes 15 seconds or longer for a child to process and action a request. Be patient!

  • Let people help you -- it is not a sign of weakness and allows others to feel good by helping.

  • Take a few minutes of time for yourself when your child is pushing your limits. Learning to stay calm and not get upset at your child will go a long way.

  • Get on your child’s level. This removes the power over issue and helps you connect with your child when you need to correct him/her. Connect then redirect.

  • Understanding that each child is unique.

  • Find your community - the people who support you and lift you up.

We hope you’ve found a new favorite article, tip, book, etc from the last few posts.  We are so happy that you have started your parenting journey with Little Wonders and that we are a part of your community.

Parents’ Favorite Articles

Last month we shared some favorite blogs and websites of our Little Wonders parents.  Today we’re sharing some favorite articles that parents mentioned during our last discussion of the 2017-2018 school year.  Here is the list!

Emotion Coaching: One of the Most Important Parenting Practices in the History of the Universe

No Bad Kids – Toddler Discipline Without Shame (9 Guidelines)

10 Reasons Your Toddler's Tantrum Is Actually a Good Thing

What I Learned About Working Parenthood After My Kids Grew Up

Lucie's List Behavior Series: What’s Normal for a One-Year-Old

Phases and Moments

50 Easy Ways to Be a Fantastic Parent

Do you have a favorite article to share with us?  Leave a link in the comments so we can check it out!  And come back to read our next post where we’ll share some great tips that our Little Wonders parents love!

Parents’ Favorite Blogs & Websites

The last discussion of the 2017-2018 school year the Little Wonders Teachers asked parents to come to the table with their favorite parenting resource and boy did they ever!  Today we’re sharing some of the blogs and websites that our parents are finding to be valuable as they continue on their parenting journey.

Scary Mommy started out as a way to document Jill Smokler’s stay-at-home days with her kids, it has transformed into a huge community of millions of parents “brought together by a common theme: Parenting doesn’t have to be perfect.”

Aha! Parenting  is Dr. Laura Markham’s website where she “creates Aha! Moments for parents of babies through teens.  She has a blog and has written a few books.

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Lucie’s List is useful from setting up a registry to postpartum tips to gear guides, Meg tries to “make the kind of site I would have found useful as a clueless new mom”.

National At-Home Dad Network provides support, education and advocacy for fathers who are the primary caregivers of their children.

Kelly Mom provides evidence-based information on breastfeeding and parenting.

Cat and Nat’s mission has always been to bring laughter and a sense of community to women and moms.  They also have a website.

Respectful Sleep Training is a Facebook group that is a “safe haven from shaming and fear-mongering surrounding sleep training”.

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SF Dads Group is a Facebook group that connects fathers in the SF Bay Area through meetups, blogs, workshops, and more.  Check out their website for more information.

Screen-Free Parenting Community is a facebook group where members can get support and ideas for handling technology in the family setting.  They promote screen-free or screen-limited for the first few years of life and regular family conversations, monitoring and age appropriate limits for pre-school age and older.

Please share a blog or website that you find yourself going back to again and again.

Stay tuned for our next post where we will share some articles that our parents have found to be valuable while they raise their little wonders.  

Goodbye from the 2017-2018 blog team!

Thank you so much to the 2017-2018 blog team!  We've had a lot of fun this year and each writer has shared about their time at Little Wonders below.


Unexpected Relationships

I decided to join Little Wonders last year because I wanted my daughter to have a chance to be around other kids, and I looked forward to the chance to socialize with and share ideas with other parents. We definitely have enjoyed those aspects of class! What I didn’t fully anticipate was how wonderful it would be for my daughter to develop relationships with the other adults, and for me to be able to share time with the other kids. My daughter now has not only a wonderful group of toddler playmates, but also a cohort of other adults whom she recognizes and trusts. I not only had the chance to meet and learn with the amazing other parents in our class, but also the privilege of spending time with the other kids - seeing them learn and grow and demonstrate their emerging personalities. It's incredible to be part of a community in which all of the children are cared for and adored. I’m so grateful to Teacher Maggie for facilitating such a welcoming environment and to the other parents and kids in our class for the friendship and support they have offered to my daughter and me. Little Wonders is such a special place!

-Emily Melahn

A Graduating Family

We are finishing up our 3rd and final year for our family at Little Wonders. (1 year with my older daughter, and 2 years with my younger one). I am going to miss it so much.  As Teacher Suzanne says, it is the cheapest therapy you will find! This could not be more true. The support and knowledge I received while here is unparalleled. Everything I know about parenting a toddler is from Little Wonders. I am so glad that I came back and did the afternoon class with my younger daughter. Its amazing how far the kids have come. When we were starting the program, I never would have believed my daughter would be able to watch and participate in teacher-led science experiments by the end! Little Wonders is the perfect first school experience for both parent and child. Little Wonders has the best teachers, the best toys, and the best Halloween party around! I am so grateful for our experience.

-Sandi Arata

A Supportive Community

We are so glad we found Little Wonders. We were recommended by a friend and I am so glad we joined this awesome community. This was our 1st semester and we're already looking forward to Summer classes & Fall. I've enjoyed seeing my daughter blossom in class - Teacher Mireille has been a joy! I love the parent discussions and hearing how in many instances I am not alone in my challenges as a parent. Teacher Mireille has always been so helpful and insightful with her advice and I've always felt reassured when I bring forward my concerns about parenting my 16 month old. We've also loved the events that Little Wonders organizes, which allows us to connect with other families and spend quality family time together with fun activities for our littles. So thankful for this little school! Can't wait to come back.

-Daphne Howe

A Working Parent's Perspective

What a year this had been! Although it was our first and only year at Little Wonders (since my twins age out of the program this summer), it has been such a joy to be part of such a wonderful program even for a short time.  I had always heard amazing things about Little Wonders, and when I found out that there was an option for working parents such as myself, I was thrilled to be able to join the Wednesday evening class. Over the year my twin boys have learned so much through Teacher Mireille’s carefully planned science experiments (look at all the different seed sizes!), art projects (mixing red and yellow paint makes orange!), and from playing and socializing with other kids their age. As a parent, I have loved the discussions, especially the ones about being a “good enough” parent in this world of ever-increasing parental pressures, and about all the ways we can encourage our kids to take healthy risks. It has also been wonderful to connect with our fellow Wednesday evening families socially, from Moms’ and Dads’ Nights Out to whole family meet-ups at Off The Grid. The connections we have made with Teacher Mireille and with our classmates will stay with us for years to come, and we will always treasure the memories of this amazing Little Wonders year.   

-Katie Jay


If you want to check out Little Wonders for you and your little one, please email preview@littlewonders.org or click here to schedule a visit.  The summer session starts the week of June 11th and the fall session runs from September to May. The class schedule can be found here.

Family Game Night!

I loved playing games with my family and friends when I was growing up.  I had high hopes when I became a parent for family game nights. Like many of my expectations, I had to adjust them when reality hit. Rather than taking turns and having fun, we had meltdowns and quitting over not winning. Sigh

However, my disappointment was replaced with excitement when another parent mentioned cooperative board games in class one day at Little Wonders. I had no idea this concept even existed before that discussion. I only knew of games where there was a winner and a loser and my kids are not currently able to enjoy that. With cooperative games my mind was opened to a whole new world and it has been wonderful for our family! Basically all the players work together for a single purpose so, rather than being pitted against each other, we are all on the same team.  This Wikipedia link explains cooperative games in more detail, for those that want to learn more.

The game we have tried is from a company called Peaceable Kingdom. They have several different games appropriate for 2 and 3 year olds, as well as older children. We have played Count Your Chickens and had a blast with our 3 and 6 year old. In this game everyone works together to bring baby chicks back to the coop. We have a much better time when we cheer each other on, rather than have a single winner. 

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There are games to suit many different interests. There’s a game called Chugga Choo for train lovers and Feed the Woozle for monster aficionados. I am seriously considering trying Bunny Bedtime. The description says it focuses on getting a bunny ready for bed. Some help with the bedtime routine? I would never say no to that!  I also think that Stack Up sounds like a fun time. This game allows kids of different ages to play at their own level during a single game.

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There are lots of other options for slightly older kiddos also. Mermaid Island sounds like it would be fun for the 5 and older set. Players work together to get all the mermaids returned to Mermaid Island before the witch arrives. Or Race to the Treasure where players strategize to build a path to and collect keys to unlock the treasure before the Ogre gets it.  Sounds like we can have fun with cooperative games for several years to come.

We are so excited to bring back family game night with this new cooperative twist!

-Sandi Arata

Parenting Book Recommendations

Sometimes it can help to consult outside sources to find new ideas for working through the challenges that can come along with parenting our little ones in the early years. Here is a list of some of my favorite parenting books, along with recommendations shared by our Little Wonders teachers.

Read More

Introducing your little one to your dog

When we first brought our baby home, we were excited to introduce her to our 2 year old dog.  After a year, our toddler and dog are the best of friends and great playmates for each other. Introducing the new baby to the family dog requires patience but it can be done. It definitely is more beneficial if your fur baby is properly trained and listens to commands – this makes for a smoother transition and for more control over the situation.

Here are some tips we found helpful when we introduced our dog to our newborn. I am by no means a pet behavior or pet training professional but I found these tips helpful for our family:

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Get your dog used to the fact that a new arrival is about to come

  • Change is always stressful so try to make this time easier by getting your dog used to the fact that there will be a little human around.
  • Let them smell all baby related items, like diapers and baby clothes, bottles. If you intend to allow the dog into the baby’s room, let them sniff the crib, the toys, blankets, car seat, blankets, swaddles, swings, bouncers and other baby paraphernalia that will be lying around the house. This way the barrage of baby items doesn’t dumbfound your dog.
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Make the introduction slowly

  • When we first brought our baby home, we let our dog sniff her and her swaddle. He was curious and interested but don’t worry if your dog isn’t interested or is cautious.
  • If they are curious but excited, temper their energy. Asking them to sit while you let them smell baby slowly. Remain calm and maintain a gentle, relaxed energy as dogs can definitely sense when you’re tense or anxious.
  • If they are uninterested or cautious, leave them be. Don’t force the introduction or rush it, let it happen on its own when the dog feels relaxed and at ease. You want to make this experience a pleasant one for both the dog and you and, of course, baby.
  • Don’t be discouraged if your baby and dog don’t do well with each other. Sometimes it takes time, not all dogs and babies have the right temperament for each other and it may take longer for them to get used to each other. Use your best judgment and be patient.

Encourage interaction

  • Depending on your comfort level of how involved you want the dog to be with baby, encourage interaction but also ensure boundaries are established. Your dog still needs to be able to listen and obey your commands when you give them while they are around baby. Safety is of upmost importance!
  • For example, we did not want our dog to lick our newborn on her face so we had to constantly reinforce that behavior to make sure he understood that it isn’t acceptable. Consistency is key.
  • It goes without saying: always make sure any interaction between dog and baby is supervised. NEVER leave a baby unattended with a dog, no matter how good the dog is with kids.
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Teach both the child and dog to be gentle with each other

  • As your baby gets older and more interactive, it’s important that they learn how to be gentle with your dog.
  • Similarly if your dog wants to play with your child, teach them to be gentle and less rambunctious than they would play with you.
  • Teach them to pet your dog gently by demonstrating. Use a soft, gentle voice while petting the dog gently.
  • Allow them to participate in basic pet care like brushing or feeding. Use your discretion if your dog is sensitive or has issues with food guarding.

Hopefully these tips are helpful as you help build a wonderful friendship between your dog and your baby. We love watching our dog and toddler interact and are constantly amazed at how good they are with each other. She now has a built in playmate and furry best friend for life!

-Daphne Howe

 

Children’s book recommendations

Spring is here - a great time for new beginnings, new adventures, and maybe some new books? Here are some well-loved favorites as well as some newer releases, all perfect for your developing little bookworm. If you’re not shopping locally, don’t forget to use the Amazon links to support Little Wonders while you shop!

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Books for younger babies:

Look! Look! by Peter Linenthal - This high contrast black and white board book (along with others in the series) will grab your little reader’s attention.

Hello Bugs! by Smriti Prasadam – Another series of high contrast books (with some sparkles just for fun) that is sure to be one of baby’s favorites.

Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton – Sandra Boynton’s cheerful rhyming books are fun for parents and children alike.

Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman – The beautiful language and illustrations make all of Nancy Tillman’s books a joy to read.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin and Eric Carle – This well-loved book has stood the test of time, as have all of Eric Carle’s classics.

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Books for older babies:

Colors ABC Numbers by Roger Priddy – This series of oversize board books features colorful pictures and corresponding words that are perfect to support language development.

Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino and Steven Kellogg – A sweet little llama searches for a llama mama in this fun-to-read rhyming book.

The Little Airplane by Lois Lenski – Pilot Small is off on a flying adventure in this board book that’s perfect for any plane-loving little person.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney – A sweet book celebrating the love between parent and child, this is a much-loved classic like many of Sam McBratney’s books.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss – A true classic, this rollicking rhyming book is as fun for parents to read as it is for children to enjoy.

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Books for toddlers:

All Aboard the Dinotrain by Deb Lund – Deb Lund’s fun-to-read books (including Dinotrain, Dinosailors, and Dinoplane) feature dinosaurs going on all sorts of rhyming adventures.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker – The perfect bedtime story for any truck-obsessed toddler, these trucks have worked hard all day and are ready for a good night’s sleep.

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty – Perseverance and creativity are the order of the day as Rosie learns to celebrate her ingenuity with the help of a famous great-great aunt.

Little Excavator by Anna Dewdney – A little excavator discovers that sometimes being small is just what’s needed in this fun-to-read rhyming book.

Journey by Aaron Becker – The first in a trilogy, this beautiful wordless picture book follows the journey of an adventurous little girl who discovers the importance of friendship.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn – Chester Raccoon needs a little extra reassurance when he goes to his first day of school.  Perfect for separation anxiety and transitioning to pre-school.

We hope you enjoy these books as much as we do! Happy reading!

-Katie Jay

 

Free & low cost activities to do with toddlers

We live in an area of seemingly unlimited activities for kids. Museums, indoor play structures, gyms; classes are everywhere.  However, most of these things cost money, which for most of us is not unlimited. And sometimes you need a break from the park!  This is my list of go-to free (or low) cost activities to do with littles. Sometimes you just need to get out of the house!

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Little Free Library

Maybe you’ve seen some of these in your neighborhood. Community members build a small cupboard-like structure, usually located in front of a private home. People are invited to trade books, with Little Free Library’s “take a book, return a book” policy. We love to visit different ones around our area. We borrow a book, return it to a different Little Free Library the next week, and take another book. This is just so much fun. You can search for libraries in your area, here.

Hillsdale Mall Kiddie Kruzzer Strollers

Did you know that you can visit the concierge at Hillsdale Mall and borrow a Kiddie Kruzzer stroller for free? There are several varieties, but my kids love the double fire truck model. My kids enjoyed this long after they had stopped cooperating with traditional strollers. We have spent several afternoons, just doing laps around Hillsdale Mall in our fire truck. Sometimes we will visit Mrs. Fields for a cookie before heading home. The concierge is located on the lower level, near the M.A.C Cosmetics store. 

Construction site viewing

If you have a kid who loves trucks, it can be so fun to go and visit a construction site. I use this website for the city of San Mateo to look for current areas under construction and then we will go visit and just watch for a while.

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Visit the ducks

https://www.cityofsanmateo.org/3334/Bay-Meadows-Community-Park

Bay Meadows Park in San Mateo is best knows for busy soccer fields. There is also an almost hidden pond at the North end, where my kids love to see the ducks. There’s a path around it, perfect for strollers or bikes. This is especially fun in the spring when you can hope to spot some ducklings.

 

 

Trader Joe’s coloring sheets

Trader Joe’s grocery stores are great for families, with lots of family friendly foods available. My kid’s favorite thing about them is the monthly coloring sheets. We will stop in and pick up a new sheet. Later in the week we bring it back colored and they are absolutely thrilled to see it hung up in the front. Usually they are given a lollipop for their efforts. A win for everyone!

-Sandi Arata

Busy Isn’t Better

When I was in high school, I didn’t have time for lunch. By that I don’t mean that I was so busy I spent my lunch period doing homework or other things, I mean that I literally did not have time in my class schedule for a lunch period at all.

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While I think that’s probably an extreme example, and one would hope that none of us are packing our toddlers’ schedules so full that we forget that they need to eat, many of us have accepted as normal a constant state of ‘busy-ness’ in which we feel so pressed for time that we put some of our most basic needs aside in order to keep up.

It can be hard to slow down and let our kids be kids when we are so used to being constantly on the go ourselves. It can feel unnatural and perhaps even cause us to worry.  Will our kids fall behind their peers if they don’t start music lessons and sports in preschool? What will we do with them all day if they’re not in lots of activities? Won’t they get bored? We’re supposed to spend our entire weekends shuttling them to and from various engagements, right? Are there certain activities that are more important than others? How many activities is too many? Too few?

Of course, there is no magic number of activities in which to enroll our kids, no set formula for dividing time between structured and unstructured things. The key is to find a balance that feels right for your family. Here are some things to consider when scheduling your kids’ time:

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  • Respect your child’s need for unstructured time to play. Sometimes scheduling a lot of activities for our kids comes from a desire to make sure they keep up and learn new things. However, research shows that a lot of learning and creativity comes from downtime and boredom. Children need this time to grow.
     
  • Select activities for your kids carefully, and be open to their interests changing over time. Just because you loved soccer or music or dance as a child doesn’t mean that your child will.
     
  • Observe your child and how he or she responds to their schedule. Do they drag their feet whenever it’s time for a particular class, or are they excited to go? Do they seem stressed or anxious? Every kid is different and what might be an overwhelming amount of stimulus and activity to one may not be to another. As in most things in parenting, there isn’t a single right or wrong way to do things. You will always know your kid best.
     
  • Unstructured time doesn’t have to mean chaos. You can still maintain a loose routine for your child and for yourself without falling into the over scheduling trap. 
     
  • Encourage independent play from a young age. For some of us, scheduling activities for our children comes from a desire to avoid having a bored kid or to give ourselves a break from entertaining our kids. If we cultivate our children’s natural curiosity, though, we may find that we are less taxed by unstructured time with them. There are many ways to do this! Parenting educator Janet Lansbury has some great tips for fostering independent play, including in this post. 
     
  • Model the types of behavior you’d like to see from your child in unstructured time. Do you pull out a phone or device whenever you have a free minute? If we want our kids to develop the ability to play independently and to be comfortable with unstructured time, we need to put this skill to practice ourselves and give them the opportunity to observe it in action.

As in so many aspects of parenting, balance is key. There’s no harm in letting your kid try out classes and other activities. But there’s also no harm in resisting the pressure to sign up for everything! Try to trust that the real learning our kids are doing as toddlers does not require they be enrolled in a particular music or sports class. Simply by being in the world and interacting with it and with us, our kids grow and learn. We are enough for them! 

-Emily Melahn

Making the most of "Us" time

Often as parents we find ourselves amidst a myriad of activities for our kids, there are places to go, people to see, things to do, errands to run. As a result, date nights and couple time eludes us. We barely have time for ourselves, let alone to plan a date night! And sometimes, when we do find the time, spending time with our significant other ends up being going to bed early because we're so exhausted from the week or the day that there's no energy left for romance. So with Valentine's Day being around the corner, I thought I'd share some tips on how to make the most of couple time, so that even the most tired of parents can still enjoy a little quality "us" time.

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  • It does take effort - Quality couple time takes effort. It doesn't have to be extravagant but it does require some commitment from both parties to make it happen. The truth is, you have to make time for it and that can be done in different ways. Whether it’s committing to 1 date night a month, hiring a sitter for the kids, or trying to come home early from work on Fridays for dinner, this all takes the conscious effort of deciding to make this a priority. Both of you are responsible for this, the intimacy of your marriage or partnership is your responsibility, so take the reins and make it happen.
     
  • Bigger isn't always better - Don't be fooled that quality "us" time needs to be a fancy dinner date or an exotic weekend getaway, it doesn't always have to involve flowers or gifts. Whatever your style, make sure its quality time. It could be a Netflix movie and ice cream (or wine) on the couch, or it could be a hot date at a hip restaurant in town - the most important thing is that you are spending time together, doing something you both love and enjoying yourselves together, without the kids. 
     
  • Undivided attention - Put away the devices (laptop, phone, iPad) and give your spouse your undivided attention (even if its only for 15 minutes). "Us" time doesn't have to be long either - like in a formal date. Sometimes all it takes to spend good quality "couple" time is sitting in bed, telling each other about your day. One person talks and the other just simply listens, and you take turns. This is sometimes all you need to feel connected to your partner and for your partner to feel heard, especially if they’re having a hard day. Never underestimate the simply gesture of asking "how was your day?" and just listening with an open heart.
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Finding time together can be challenging when you're a parent, but don't let it be an excuse. You have to work at it. It doesn't always come easy but think of it as setting a great example for your children. When they see you model a happy, healthy marriage or partnership, you're teaching them important pillars for their future relationships and marriages. It doesn't just benefit you both as a couple but your kids get to see how much you love each other, which benefits them too.

~ Daphne Howe

Encouraging Boredom For Our Kids?

On these cold winter days, when we tend to find ourselves inside due to poor weather, many parents can be struck with a feeling of dread – what can we do today to prevent the big “B” word? That “B” word we are talking about is boredom, and for many parents it is something we go to great lengths to avoid. To keep our children stimulated and engaged, even in these winter months, many parents choose to fill their children’s daily schedule with activities and events.

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As well intentioned as this may seem, a recent article by the World Economic Forum (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/09/being-bored-is-good-for-children-and-adults-this-is-why?utm_content=bufferb8f6b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer) suggests that there is value in letting our children be bored. As the article’s author explains, boredom can be seen as an opportunity rather than a deficit. Boredom helps to prevent the expectation that children should constantly be entertained or on the go. In boredom, we give children the opportunity to create their own pastimes and explore their inner curiosity, perseverance, and playfulness. Plainly put, simplifying our schedules and powering down from the outside world can be a great benefit for our children! As Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D, a developmental and clinical psychologist in Oakland suggests, children need to read, write, think, draw, build, and create. So much structured time does not allow for this to happen.

As Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting suggests, by consciously saying “no thanks” to packed days, parents and children can “gain time, connectivity, security, and ease.” Here are a few tips she suggests for simplifying our family lives:

  • Avoid overscheduling. Moderate your family’s extra activities, focusing on essentials, so that you and your children can function at a sustainable place. 
  • Embrace ordinary days. Not every day needs to be exceptional and our children shouldn’t expect that. Learning to appreciate the ordinary days can build character and encourage creativity.
  • Cut back on screen time. Eliminating screens helps foster children’s interactions with other humans and encourages exploration with the environment.
  • Reduce toys. According to Payne, simplifying play makes parenting easier. She suggests doing this by keeping a small selection of open-ended toys, like blocks and simple dolls. Echoing the same sentiment suggested by the World Economic Forum, Payne suggests requiring children to play outside often and allowing them to be bored. Through boredom, we can help to facilitate basic creativity and resourcefulness.

Here are some additional tips for finding that balance between over-scheduling and boredom:

  • Be a role model. Make sure you enjoy unstructured time so you children will value it as well!
  • Check in with your child and make sure that his/her activities are things they truly like to do.
  • Make time for unstructured family time so that you can create opportunities for bonding, problem solving, and physical activity.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep and create a bedtime routine that works for the whole family.

So here’s to relishing this time of year!

-Genevieve Levin

Tips for Cultivating Family Traditions with Children.

Celebrating holidays with young children can be magical. Witnessing their wonder and joy is truly a gift in itself.

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At the same time, though, many of us feel overwhelmed during the holidays. Between visits with extended family, a desire to create memorable and fun experiences for our children, traveling or hosting family with toddlers, and finding gifts for everyone on our list -- all on top of the day to day work of parenting young children -- it’s easy to feel stressed!

Traditions can be a salve for these stresses -- a way to slow down and focus on our families at a time of year when we are otherwise being pulled in a million directions. We all know how much our little ones thrive on routine, right?  Traditions are really just routines dressed up. Traditions, like routines, help us and our children know what comes next. They remind us of who we are and where we come from, and they give us something to look forward to and to take comfort in. Repeating traditions year after year can strengthen our families and help our children to feel loved and secure.

Below are a few tips for cultivating traditions with your children. I’m also sharing a few of my family’s traditions in the hope that they may spark an idea for you, too:

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Start small. A tradition does not need to be elaborate! Something as simple as reading a beloved story before bed each night can be a tradition.

Borrow and share traditions with other families. A tradition doesn’t have to be invented from scratch to be special. Last year was my daughter’s first Christmas and I wanted to commemorate it in a special way, but couldn’t come up with any great ideas on my own, so I turned to the internet for inspiration. Behold the start of our ‘ornament a year’ tradition: each Christmas, my husband and I pick out an ornament that represents
something important or noteworthy from our daughter’s life that year. I love knowing that every year when we decorate our tree we’ll see the ornaments and remember something about what she was like at each age. I hope that as she grows up she’ll enjoy hearing stories about when she was younger as much as we’ll enjoy telling them. I kind of like the idea that other families may be doing this with their children, too!

Trust that traditions will develop organically. Think back on your childhood and the traditions that were most important to you. From where did they emerge? The most treasured tradition in the family I grew up in involves getting food from McDonald’s on Christmas Eve. (This was definitely not a tradition my parents intended to create!) December 24 is my oldest sister’s birthday; one year when she was a kid she was allowed to pick a special birthday treat and requested McDonald’s. Nearly 40 years later my siblings and I still make an annual trip to the drive-thru.  Sometimes just going with the flow and doing what works best for our family at any given point will lead to a tradition our kids are excited to come back to year after year.

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Don’t be afraid to adapt or modify traditions as needed. Sometimes it can be hard as young families to balance the desire to continue traditions that pre-date our children with the reality that life with kids is different than life before kids. Maybe we’re not sure how or if we can continue a tradition from the family we grew up in or something special we’ve treasured doing with our partner before we had kids. Creativity and flexibility is key here! Our baking projects may be a little less elaborate when we let the kids help, and family game night might be more Candyland and less Settlers of Catan for a while, but there is still something special about continuing a tradition that’s important to us and letting it change through the years as we go through different stages of life.

Cut yourself (and your kids) some slack. We all know that toddlers can be experts at dismantling our best laid plans. Try to keep in mind the age and temperament of your child(ren) and have realistic expectations before putting too much stake in how a particular tradition or experience will go. Maybe a photo with Santa in which everyone is smiling and in their best holiday attire is not going to happen when your toddler is going through extreme separation anxiety or actively dislikes wearing fancy clothes. It’s okay if things don’t turn out exactly as planned.

Consider creating traditions that are centered around giving. We all want our children to grow up to be generous, kind people. Holidays offer a great opportunity for us to model the spirit of giving and create traditions that bring our family closer together at the same time. Anything from making holiday treats to share with friends and neighbors to donating toys to kids in need can be a great way to spread love to others while also modeling generosity for our children.

Wishing you and your family a happy holiday season!

-Emily Melahn

Modeling a Generous Spirit

I try to model a generous spirit for my children all year long, but it’s especially easy to do this time of year. There are so many opportunities for teaching children about giving during the holidays!

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Treats
We love to bake treats and deliver them to friends and neighbors during the holidays. There are many ways that kids can be involved in this, such as:

  • Helping with the baking or decorating of treats
  • Putting stickers and bows on packages
  • Helping with delivery (load treats in a wagon to deliver to your neighbors or have the kids help bring cookies to their teachers when they come to school)

Making Cards
If you have a little artist, have them help with holiday cards.  This can mean they decorate envelopes for your family cards or draw and decorate cards for their teachers or friends.

There is a wonderful organization called Cards for Hospitalized Kids (cardsforhospitalizedkids.com). You can make cards (for holidays or any time of the year), mail them to the organization, and they will be distributed to children who are currently hospitalized.  You can find all the details about where to send them and what to have them say on the website.

Giving Tree  
We like to do a giving tree every year, like the one for Life Moves in the classroom at Little Wonders. With toddlers I find it is hard to have them help with picking out toys for others, but there are always many choices that involve things like clothes and personal items. I like to have the kids come to the store and we talk about how we are giving this to someone who doesn’t have the item and how wonderful it is to help people. The kids can carry the items into the classroom and put them under the tree too.

I have also seen giving trees at the library and in stores this time of year. 

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Various Drives and Donations
We like to bring cans or boxes of non-perishable food to the library when we visit.
Other suggestions:

  • Bring last years winter coats to a shelter, such as Life Moves 
  • Donate old books to your library.
  • Purge toys and clothes to make room for new gifts and donate them to Life Moves.

The important part is to have your children help with gathering and delivering the items and talk about how its important in your family to help, give back, and reduce waste.

Have a happy holiday with your Little Wonders! Here’s to celebrating the real meaning of the holidays this year!

~Sandi Arata

Cold Weather Activities

The holidays are upon us and with the excitement of this fun time of year, we also welcome colder temperatures. Gone are the long days of summer when we could easily bring our rowdy kiddos to the park for hours on end to burn off some of that seemingly endless energy. Since we can’t always venture outside for long periods of time, colder temps and rain usually mean that we have to get creative in order to pass the days with our little ones so that we all end up happy (and with our sanity intact!) by the end of the day. Here are a few suggestions for activities to fill those cold winter days that are coming our way.

Toddler Gyms/Playgroups
Community centers, museums, and libraries are wonderful places to escape the cold while experiencing something new and exciting for the little ones. We are lucky to have many great centers in our local area! Here are a few to add to your list this winter:

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Winter crafting
What better time to craft than during the holidays! Making ornaments and other holiday art projects is sure to be a hit. Try out these crafts for loads of fun:

  • Cottonball snowman – What you need: construction paper, glue, cotton balls, pom poms, contact paper, and markers.
  • Cut out snowman figures from the contact paper and glue the non-sticky side to the construction paper. Once attached, lift the top layer off the contact paper and let you little one place the cotton balls and pom poms on the paper to make a snowman.
  • Handprint mitten ornament– What you need: construction paper, finger paint, scissors
  • Trace a mitten on construction paper (make larger than your child’s hand). Dip child’s hand in finger paint and place handprint in traced mitten. Let dry and cut out traced mitten. Attach string and hang on the tree!

Baking
Toddlers are a delight in the kitchen and love to help when it comes to baking. If your kids are young enough that this is their first time helping out, here’s a helpful reminder: KEEP IT SIMPLE! Have your little ones help by measuring out the ingredients, sifting flour, icing cookies or dropping sprinkles on frosting. Chances are after a few minutes they will be ready to move on to the next activity so keeping them engaged for a short period of time is all it takes for them to have loads of fun.

Embrace the cold
Get out with the family to participate in winter sports we can only enjoy during this time of the year. Bring your kids to the ski slopes for their first taste of skiing and snowboarding. While you’re in the snow build a snowman and make some snow angels!

Even if you’re not headed to the snow, be sure to enjoy the outdoors locally. Kids love to be outdoors, so just bundle up and head outside!

Happy Halloween!

It’s almost Halloween, an exciting time for all of our little ghosts, goblins, witches, and pumpkins. Along with all the fun and excitement, all the new elements of
Halloween can be unsettling or even downright scary for the littlest people. Here are
some suggestions to make this Halloween the happiest yet.

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Prepare your little pumpkin for spooky surprises. The world of Halloween is filled
with all sorts of new characters, and ghosts, monsters, and witches (and even
princesses and Elmo) can be startling or scary. Before heading out on Halloween or
in the days leading up to it, let your toddler know that they might be seeing these
new-to- them characters. You can also talk about creatures who might jump out and
say “Boo,” and even practice saying “Boo!” right back.

Consider the candy conundrum. Halloween is closely connected with candy and
trick-or-treating for most people, but chances are your little pumpkin hasn’t made
the association yet. With all the other new parts to the Halloween experience, this
might be a year to enjoy the sights and sounds of the neighborhood rather than
focusing on hitting every house on the block. If you decide to squeeze in a few “trick-
or-treats,” consider letting your child select one or two pieces from their loot, then
saving the rest for the grown-up goblins at your house or workplace. (Of course be
sure to check all candy for choking hazards or unsafe packaging before the candy
selection.)

Young toddlers can also celebrate Halloween by helping to hand out treats at home.
This is a great time to model eye contact, please and thank you, and taking turns.
You might want to consider handing out non-candy items such as Halloween
stickers, pencils, or small non-candy snack packs.

Costumes – the great debate. Halloween costumes can take a lot of time, money, and
energy to create, and we’ve all heard stories of that infamous toddler who took one
look at their intended costume and flatly refused to have anything to do with it. To
avoid (or at least mitigate) the frustration that the may raise, develop a “Costume
Plan B.” You might grab a hat and some face paint or even have a Halloween t-shirt
on hand just in case. Whether your toddler is sporting their costume or rocking a t-
shirt, make sure you’ve got options just in case the evening is warmer or cooler than
you expected.

We hope these tips help you have a wonderful Halloween with your little ghosts and
goblins. Happy Halloween!

~Katie Jay

Summer Adventures in Parenting

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Ah summer, languid and idyllic days filled with laughter and fresh air. At least that’s what Facebook and Pinterest seem to depict. I have a dark secret to share with you – while there is plenty of laughter there is also a lot of dirty clothes, dirty floors, and dirty (and sometimes cranky) kids. And very little of it is languid. However, as for idyllic, I’m trying to hold on to memories of my childhood where all I remember is having fun. Being on the other side as the parent, I need that reminder, that my childhood memories are filtered through forgiving rose tinted glasses.

Cut yourself some slack. Those extra 15 minutes you are able to give your child today – that’s the memory they will keep and cherish. Sure there are a lot of fun things to do in the area and I encourage you to explore but don’t feel like you’re failing as a parent if Camp Mom or Camp Dad isn’t prepped and ready to go every day! I think a little boredom is a good thing – from it can come creativity and ingenuity. Though be careful if they get too quiet, that’s rarely a good sign ;).

We have a membership to Curioddysey and we often pick other outings based on the discounts we can get. Over the 4th our whole family got free admission to the Santa Barbara Zoo. We’ve used our Curioddysey membership to get discounts as the San Francisco Zoo, Oakland Zoo, Happy Hollow, The Portland Children’s Museum, the Columbus Zoo and a few others I can’t bring to mind at the moment. And I should mention that we love going to Curioddysey too! Knowing that we can go somewhere locally and get in for, usually, half price, is a real draw.

Now that the drought is more or less over we’ve been using the hose a little this summer. We don’t leave it on for long, but few things are more fun than running through the water in your own backyard where swimsuits can become optional (for the kids that is). We love splash parks too. Ryder Park has water again this summer, over by Seal Point in San Mateo. And Stulsaft Park in Redwood City, Stafford Park in Redwood City, and Burton Park in San Carlos – and these are only the ones we’ve visited.

And few things are more fun – for all of us – than an impromptu picnic. Our favorite? Costco pizza, watermelon and popsicles. And it means everyone has someone to be with. At the end of those less than languid and very messy days there is serenity in getting to unwind with a grown up friend while letting the kids run out their energy for a *fingers crossed* good night sleep.

Shannon Adams-Ferris

Goodbye from the 2017 Blog Team!

Classes have finished for the summer and some of us—myself included—are saying goodbye to Little Wonders. We started at Little Wonders with the Baby Play class when my son Robbie was 10 months old. I had been looking for an activity we could do together that would be fulfilling for us both and as soon as we walked in to Little Wonders, I knew we had found the right spot.  I can still remember our Preview session when Robbie crawled right out of my arms and started playing on the floor, he knew right away as well that Little Wonders was the place for him. Mireille likewise knew we were in the right spot (as usual) and got us signed up right away. Connecting with her and all of the other amazing teachers has been such an amazing introduction into the world of childhood education from the parent side of things. We truly have the best teachers around! In the 2.5 years we've been a part of the Little Wonders community we have found such a welcoming and supportive community, where we've made so many friendships that I know will last as we move on to full-time preschool.

This year was my first on the Board, serving as Publicity Chair, and helping to transition Little Wonders to our fabulous new website and blog format. It was such a rewarding experience to be a part of the Board and to help guide our school and community, I highly recommend it! I would like to personally thank my blog team for providing such wonderful and creative articles throughout the year. And thank you all for reading! I look forward to seeing what Ika and the new team of writers do next year! 

Lisa Mumbach, Publicity Chair

Time flies when you are having fun; I can't believe the school year is already coming to a close!  If feels like it was not that long ago that we embarked on our Little Wonders Journey and looking back it is amazing to see the amount of mental and physical development that has happened in such a short span of time.  It has been a blessing to be part of such a supportive community to help navigate this season of toddlerhood.  From discussing nurturing ourselves, to taking risks and the challenges of potty training, I have learned so much from me fellow mama's as well as the patient and gracious teachers here at Little Wonders-- which I am so grateful for. We are aging out this year, and while we are sad to leave Little Wonders we look forward to having some fun over the summer session and staying connected through alumni events and future play-dates with all our little friends.  

Love & Gratitude, Crystal Adams

Hard to believe the school year is already drawing to a close until I look at photos of my Little Wonder on his first day of school and compare to his last! We’ve grown so much over the past several months, and have felt so supported and loved within the Little Wonders community. Thanks to all of the wonderful teachers, parents, and especially outgoing parents for your wisdom, advice, and shoulders to lean on. We’re looking forward to a sun and fun filled Summer session, and another year of building and learning come Fall!

Susan Schmidt

Wrapping up my first year at Little Wonders, I am amazed at how far we have come since September. When my daughter and I rolled in to our first Monday morning class, we were one frazzled mama and a cruising baby. I hardly knew what we had even signed up for -- I just knew that EVERYONE I talked to seemed to be in love with this "Little Wonders" place, so I should probably try it out. Looking around the classroom and discussion table those first couple of sessions, I quickly started to understand. Here I saw more parents and babies just trying to navigate the huge changes that come around that first birthday, each one grappling with the possibility of increased independence -- or not, depending on the day of the week. And grapple we did! Now this same class is full of toddlers who run, climb, talk, and even LISTEN...and a group of parents who just seem so much less stressed than we did at the beginning of the year. Personally, I am grateful for the shared joys and concerns at discussion ("thank goodness that isn't only happening in my house!!"), the connections with those other moms and dads, and the "aha!" moments for simple things like easy snack foods (CORN ON THE COB!). I can't wait to see what next year at Little Wonders brings! (Look for us in the Wednesday evening class!)

Elizabeth Euresti

14th Annual Ryan Phua Memorial Kid's Ride

Ryan Phua Memorial Kids’ Ride
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Downtown Burlingame, CA (at California and Lorton avenues)
Free Event
Race starts at 10:30am
Register online: www.ryansride.org

14th Annual Ryan Phua Memorial Kids’ Ride, Sunday, June 25, 2017

Come join the fun!  The 14th Annual Ryan Phua Memorial Kids’ Bike Ride, part of the 31st Annual Burlingame Criterium, is the largest kids’ bike ride in the US.  The event is scheduled for Sunday, June 25, 2017.  Each year, over 500 children twelve & under pedal to the finish with thunderous applause.  Feeling proud of their “win,” each child happily receives a medal, popsicle and goody bag.

Ryan’s Ride is a labor of love to memorialize Ryan, who died to Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood in July 2003 at age 2 years old.  Ryan and his twin brother Matthew were born after their father battled and survived cancer.  

While the event is free, children participants raise pledges for the Ryan Phua Memorial Fund, established through the LIVESTRONG Foundation to fund cancer-related programs in the Bay Area.  Close to $750,000 has been raised so far.  There will be free entertainment for the whole family after the ride.  Top fundraisers receive gift certificates to a local toy store or a brand new bike.    

For more information: www.ryansride.org
Like us:  www.facebook.com/ryansride
twitter.com/ryansride
Donate: https://www.crowdrise.com/ryans-ride/fundraiser/ryansride