Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How to potty train your child – the FUN & stress-free way!

My daughter just turned 4 in March, and I think it’s time to really get down to business and potty train her for real. I have tried training her before shortly after her 2nd & 3rd birthdays, but both attempts failed miserably. She just could not get it. It completely stressed her out; she would wail and whine and scream while squatting/sitting on the potty I bought for her, crying her heart out “I can’t pee, mama”, “There’s nothing coming out”, “Why is this taking so long?” and many other heart wrenching pleas that I can’t remember.

There are plenty of books and plenty of articles out there saying how you can potty train your child in one day, one week or whatever. I read a lot of those articles on parenting and children websites saying that your child should be potty trained by 18 months old or 2 years old the latest, or your child could be behind on her development milestone. What I think is – if there’s no major physical limitation e.g. the child still can’t walk by the age of 3 – you can forget all those psychological bullshit. You are the mother of the child; you should know what’s best for your child and work around that principle.

So that’s what I thought. If she’s not ready, then she’s not ready. There’s no use pushing her until she screams her head off, both of us getting all stressed and achieving nothing in the end. I do have friends and relatives that comment that she’s too old to be wearing diapers anymore and how their child/grandchild/niece/nephew was potty trained before the age of 3. (This seems to be the gold standard. Any later that this means your child is a slacker.)

So I’m gonna do this my way.

Also, I’ve found out that the No 1, ultimate, essential tool in potty training.  

Not a very state-of-the-art potty, but very cute nonetheless.

A state-of-the-art potty trainer? It helps, but it’s not necessary. When your child is good and ready, she won’t even need a potty anymore.

The answer is:   Patience. Lots and lots of patience.

The process of potty training my daughter took about 1 ½ months, which is quite long compared to the “normal” toilet training as recommended by the parenting experts.

However, after the first two failed attempts at potty training, I abandoned all the knowledge I’ve gained from the parenting websites, magazines and books and asked my mother and my mother-in-law for tips. Both of them said the same thing; start by taking the child to the toilet every few hours. Okay, very logical. In fact I have tried this before, resulting in the heart wrenching screams.

How to push her to succeed without pushing

What I need is to do is motivate her without putting too much stress and pressure on her. It has to be fun, visual and seem to be a like game. And it can’t be chocolates, sweets or ice cream, all her favourite things.

The obvious solution is: Stickers. Kids LOVE stickers. And not just ordinary stickers. Special, squishy and glittery stickers, awarded only upon successful potty usage.

At first I bought a roll of colourful, smiley-face stickers that has motivation phrases on them, such as ‘Good Job!’, ‘Well Done!’ and ‘You’re a Star!’ on them. But they all look pretty much the same, and after a while, doesn’t seem so special anymore. So I bought other stickers in random shapes.

I searched for free potty training charts in the internet and printed 2 copies, one for my daughter and one for her younger brother. I didn’t want him to feel left out, so I let him play along too.

Then I thought of another visual motivational goal – a photo of my kids actually on the potty. So I printed out 2 copies of a child on the potty and superimposed their head shots on the child’s body.

The early days - my son wasn't actually potty training, but I had to give him some stickers too to avoid any hard feelings. :)
I also bought a packet of pull-up pants diapers for my daughter to get used to wearing. I pasted the two charts on the wall in their play room with the superimposed head shots above each chart.

Purpose? (Get her toilet trained.) Check.
Motivation? (The special stickers) Check.
Visual goal? (The chart & the super-imposed photo) Check.

Then I explained to my daughter how it works.

How it works

In the beginning, she will start wearing the pull-up pants. Every time she wants to pee, she needs to tell me or the maid that she needs to go, so either of us can help her take off her pants and sit her down on her potty. I also reminded my maid to ask her every two to three hours whether she wants to go to the toilet. Then I showed my daughter the ‘special’ stickers, telling her that I will keep them for her, so every time she succeeded using the potty, I’ll give her a sticker and she could paste it on her chart. 

To start the engines running, I gave her a first sticker for ‘free’. (I had to give one to my son too, because he was there listening. He’ll throw a fit if he sees his sister getting a sticker and he doesn’t.)

You should have seen how their little faces light up when they see the stickers! I didn’t have to wait long for results; she told me the next day that she succeeded going to the toilet. She was literally skipping and smiling to let me know she did it. Going to the toilet became such a fun thing to do! I praised her repeatedly for her achievements, with kisses, hugs and high-fives. 
At first, success came only once a day, then it increased to twice a day, and three times a day, and about 2 weeks later, her diaper stayed dry all day. So I decided that it was the ripe time to start losing the diaper.

Progress 1 – Losing the diaper

All carpets were rolled up and stashed away, just in case of any potty accidents. I put on a diaper on my daughter only when she took her afternoon nap. It went pretty well except for 2 accidents, both happened at home, when she was too engrossed playing and she totally forgot to go to the toilet. It’s really hard to stay calm when such accidents happened, especially when you just get home from work, all grumpy and tired, or when you’ve just finished cleaning up the house, as one friend told me. Remember that no 1 tool? Patience, patience – and if you feel like screaming at the top of your lungs – more patience.

Progress 2 – Losing the diaper while travelling

When my daughter stayed dry at home and was accident free, the next step was to not wear diapers when travelling outside the house. I kept asking her every hour if she needed to pee, and she kept saying no in a really confident way. She also had to learn to make do with any toilet available, whether we were in shopping malls or a relative’s house. At first she felt a little icky of shopping malls’ toilets which were, admittedly, less-than-spotlessly-clean, but after a few times, she didn’t just care anymore.

Progress 2 – Losing the diaper during afternoon naps & moving on to the “big” job

Her bladder control is getting better, as I began to notice that she did not pee at all during her afternoon naps. So I decided to try not diapering her while she napped. I’m happy to report that no accidents occurred other than the first two I mentioned previously. 

Even better, she has even started to poop in the toilet. Previously whenever she wants to poop, she would ask to put on her diaper pants and poop in it. So whenever she did successfully poop in the toilet, I would give her extra stickers. I’d say this is a great achievement for my daughter, since she used to have bouts of constipation that left her traumatic to even sit on the toilet.

So many stickers that the chart can't fit them all! I didn't show my son's chart as there wasn't much change, anyway. 

All in all – a learning experience

My daughter still wears her night diaper and I haven’t started on the night toilet training yet, which would be another challenge. But it was such a fun and relaxing method, I didn’t mind the slowness of progress at all. Rather than setting my standards on my daughter i.e. you must be toilet trained in 3 days, I let her set her own learning pace, even at 4 years of age.

It was an educational journey, for both my daughter and me. Of course she learned how to go to the toilet on her own and all that, but the most important lesson here is independence. She also learned that to get the reward, she needs to earn it. She learns to appreciate the reward, because she has achieved it on her own. The chart is a visual proof which shows her achievements and encourages her to improve, without putting on any pressure.

I feel that I got to know my daughter’s personality better during this process. Her emotions are quite volatile, in the sense that when she’s happy, she chatters endlessly and sings all day long. But at a moment’s notice, that could flip right into a screaming fest of emotional outbursts. I’ve learned when to back off and chill when it’s not working and accept the fact that my daughter will not be able to toilet train in 3 days, and that doesn’t make her, or myself, a failure.

Breathe, stay calm and try again another day.

If you’re getting all stressed up & hot and bothered at how your child just can’t get the hang of using the potty just yet, relax and take heart. I promise you she won’t go to college in diapers.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How puzzling is that? – How puzzles can rock your child’s world

Alphabet wooden puzzle
I’ve never taken a liking or interest for puzzles or chess, or any thinking games. No one has ever told me that I should, or showed to me that puzzles are fun, or has educational benefits, or can make a person smarter. From what I can see, puzzles are anything but fun. How can arranging things to make a picture seem fun? (That alone should show you how I suck at organizing and arranging stuff. Yikes.)

But that all changed when I became a parent myself. You know how a mom always wants the best for her child? I thought “I can’t let my child become a dumb-ass like me!” or somewhere along those lines. I knew that play is a child’s work, so I started researching on smart and educational play. I mean, why let them merely play, when they can play and learn and become smarter individuals at the same time? You know, kill ten birds at one time. Moms are nothing but time-saving, efficient multi-taskers.

I started exposing my kids to puzzles from they were about a year old. I bought 2-3 pieces large puzzles of animal pictures for my daughter to assemble. At first she doesn’t know how to match the head of the animals and their bodies. I’d have to show her which is the cat’s head and its body, the fish’s head and its body, and so on. But after several attempts, she seemed to catch on. She would try and match the heads and bodies and see if they fit. Then when it doesn’t, she takes another piece and tries to fit it, until she finds a perfect match. It’s amazing to see a child that young being able to match something correctly. These all happened before I started researching on the benefits of puzzles.

Physical benefits
Young children are learning and developing fine motor skills, meaning the ability to make small or fine, controlled movements. Puzzles are a fun way to improve their motor skills i.e. the ability to pinch, pick up and grasp small items which are important for writing later on. You know how babies and young toddlers are always picking up small items on the floor such as buttons, coins, dust particles and leftover foods? Yeah, that’s gross motor skills in action. Puzzles are a much cleaner and safer way to learn, don’t you think?

Another physical benefit apparent in playing with puzzles is the hand eye coordination, which involves the coordinated vision and hand movement to execute a task. We as adults may not think twice when picking up something or writing with a pen, but a young child has to learn to do this. When assembling a puzzle, the child places each piece in the puzzle and manipulating it to see if it fits. This trial and error process is also enhancing the hand eye coordination.  
Intellectual benefits
Puzzles are a way of stimulating the thinking side of a child’s brain, focusing on problem solving and reasoning skills such as process and logical thinking. As your child tries to fit and match the puzzles, they realize that there several ways to attack a problem and experiment with ways that works best for him.

Puzzles also improve a child’s cognitive skills, i.e. learning to understand how the small puzzle pieces fit together to form a complete puzzle set. Depending on the puzzle theme, they’re also learning specific subjects such as alphabets, numbers, animals and colours, among many others.

My daughter arranging puzzles on her own.
Emotional and social benefits
You know how it feels to accomplish something? How satisfying that feels? Children feel that too. You can see how absorbed and determined they are, trying to fit them together until they match. And when they finally finish the puzzle, they clap and cheer to acknowledge that sense of achievement. The accomplishment and the praise by the audience (adoring parents, of course) increase self confidence.

Puzzles are the one of the best family or social games around, just like card and board games such as Monopoly and Uno. Fitting a puzzle requires cooperation and thinking as a group, which is also a great bonding tool. As parents guide their children on matching the puzzle pieces, they could also encourage them to try again when the child gets it wrong, encourage them not to give up and think around the problem, teach them how to handle frustration. Quality time with your kids, and learning so many things at the same time. That certainly beats your child hogging your Ipad playing Angry Birds for hours.

So keeping in mind all these benefits, it’s about time that you start buying some puzzles for your kids, don’t you think? ;)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Alphabet Match Up activity for kids

I originally found this at Muffin Tin Mom website, and I think it’s quite simple to make, using cheap stationeries, so I decided to give it a try. I did it from scratch in about an hour or so, while the kids were taking their afternoon nap. I already bought the materials beforehand for quite a while now, but I never had the time to do it (or possibly, too lazy to think about it. Hah!).

So, laying out the materials.

A large cardboard in any colour you prefer. I chose orange to make it nice and bright.

A stack of paper. You can use normal A4 paper if you like (or if you’re more cheapskate than me), or buy some nice cardstock like I did. You can even cut up some boxes and then paste the alphabet card on it, to make a sturdier card.

A strip of Velcro, scissors and coloured pens, if you’d like to colour and decorate the cards. I didn’t have time to do any decorating as my kids woke up just as I finished.

I forgot to take photos of my own stickers. Hmmph.
2 sets of alphabet stickers. You can just print out 2 sets of alphabet flashcards from the internet, or buy some, if you like. It would save more time, as you won’t need to cut up the paper or paste stickers. Up to you, really. My kids love stickers, so I decided to buy some.

Ok, let’s start!

This is the fast and easy way to cut up the paper. (I’m racing against time here, remember?) Fold the paper in two and cut it up. Then fold the long strip of paper into four and cut them up. One sheet of paper can produce 8 little cards, just about the size of a flashcard. You don’t want it to be too big, it’ll take up too much space on the cardboard.

As there are 26 alphabets, you’ll need 52 little cards in total. (Did you have to count how many letters are there? Heh.)

Here’s the fun part – pasting the stickers on the cards. Go ahead, it’ll bring out the child in you, I promise! And you’ll understand why kids love stickers so much.

I have no idea why this picture came out vertical like this.  Can someone tell me how to fix this?
Before you start sticking the Velcro on the cards and on the cardboard, I think it’s better to arrange the cards on the cardboard first, just to be sure of the placing. Good thing I did, I couldn’t fit all the letters on one surface, so I had to continue on the back. As you can see from the Muffin Tin Mom, her cardboard is bigger so it could fit all the letters. Or maybe my arrangement is a little off, I don’t know. It’s okay, we’re not trying to be too precise, it’s an activity for kids anyway. Unless you or your kids have OCD.

Then cut up the Velcro strip into small pieces. For people who have never used Velcro before, (like yours truly) you might wonder why there are two strips. One strip is the hairy one and the other is the rough one. They only stick on each other i.e. if you try to stick the hairy piece onto another hairy piece, it won’t stick. So you need to stick the rough ones on the large cardboard and the hairy ones on the back of each little card.

Okay, go ahead and stick them all.

Like I said, I had to continue on the back.

Unlike the Muffin Tin Mom, I forgot to make the small open box the put in the second set of cards. Oh well.

All done!

That wasn’t too hard, was it? ;)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Personally, I've never read any of his books. Only today that I realized that The Grinch and Horton the Elephant are characters from his books. I guess with the launch of the new movie 'The Lorax' (what the hell is that??) and his recent birthday, March 2, that I begin to get the "Seuss" awareness.

But I'd like to share this image I found here with his famous quotes, which are really fun to say. They're like tongue twisters!

And check out his official website, Seussville. It's like a fantasy playland, where everything's waving and playing merrily.

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