Friday, December 2, 2011

Toddlers and Biting

Toddlers bite.  Not all of them, but many of them.  First and foremost, it should be known that it is a typical and age appropriate behavior and if your child bites it does not mean that they are bullies, aggressors, or that they have an intention to hurt someone.  Most often, biting in toddlerhood is a form of communication.  They are communicating frustrations, anxieties, excitement or feeing overwhelmed.  Even if they are talking up a storm, the words to tell another child "Hey, that's my toy.  I'm not done with it yet" will most likely not flow freely from their mouths during a struggle.  So, if your child is bit or if your child has bit someone else, please read on and realize that the biting incident itself is not the biggest issue, it's how you handle it that is most important.

Here are my suggestions from my years of experiences with toddlers and biting.  If you have observed a child bite another child, respond quickly to the one who was bit to make sure they are okay and perform any first aid.  You can tell the biter in a firm but calm voice "No biting" but, it is also important to keep the biter close by during the comforting process; your goal is to teach the biter empathy.  A young toddler is not developmentally capable of understanding how their actions effect other people, the reason they bite (or push or grab) is to get what they want, not to hurt the other child.  Show the biter that you are comforting and paying attention to the one who was bit, and try to get the biter to comfort the other child as well.  Depending on the age of the child you can have the biter use a gentle touch in the area where they bit, get a cup of water, help hold an ice pack, give a hug, and say words like 'gentle' and 'nice.'

After an appropriate amount of care and attention is given to the child who was bit, I recommend  separating the two children to prevent another incident.  Both children, while they may seem calm, are most likely still anxious and worked up from the interaction.  Being on edge like that will only add to the likelihood of it occurring again.

Later in the day, when you think the biter is no longer feeling frustrated or upset, try to have a gentle and calm conversation saying things like 'Teeth are for not for biting' and  'We use our teeth to eat,' you can say these things when it's appropriate such as at lunch or snack time.  Having these conversations when the child is not in a state of frustration or anger will allow him to process your words.  And maybe, you will be able to prevent a bite from happening in the future.  For example, if you see that your child looks like he is getting frustrated and you think he is going to bite, you can use the phrases that you said to him earlier "Remember, teeth are for eating" and that gentle reminder may be all he needs to control his actions.

It's also helpful to give your verbal toddler words to use in situations where they may resort to biting, such as 'You can tell your friend "no mine."'  While you can and should say it's not okay to bite, remember to tell them what it is okay to do (i.e. using teeth to chew), we can't expect children to stop a behavior if they do not know an acceptable one to replace it with. 

This is really just a basic plan on how to deal with biting, a child who bites infrequently should benefit from this type of intervention.  If biting is occurring regularly (everyday, several times a day) or if the biter is only biting one child, other steps may be necessary such as a change of environment, adjusting sleep and/or eating routines, keeping certain children separated, constant monitoring, etc...

Below are some links to articles on biting that I found to be helpful, informative and appropriate for toddlers.

Some ways to prevent biting:

*Set up your child's play environment (classroom) so that toys and materials are easily accessible and not frustrating

*Make sure the items you put out are age appropriate so that they can be challenged but successful, this will help to prevent frustrations.

*Keep your toddler on a fun and flexible schedule.  Make sure their day is full of activities and outings so that they don't get bored but also stick to a routine (breakfast, play, nap, lunch, outing, snack, play, dinner) so that they are not overwhelmed or generally know what to expect.

*Allow your toddler to express their feelings and emotions.  Shockingly, tantrums are a good thing!  It means they are mad and able to show it.  Try to refrain from putting a pacifier in, or doing whatever it is you know calms them down in an instant, and allow them to get their feelings out.  Infants and toddlers have emotions just like adults do.  Think about how you feel if you are not able to vent to a friend about your bad day at work and how that builds up over time if you have no one to talk too.  Your toddler may be frustrated that they can't put a puzzle together and they need to be able to tell you about it.  If their feelings continuously get stifled, the tension will build up and biting is one way in which it can be released.

*Give choices.  I started giving O a choice of snack when he was about 11 months old - I show him the hummus and yogurt containers and let him choose.  Having even a small amount of control will help to reduce possible frustrations.  Choices include snacks, outfits, shoes, toys, etc...

*If your toddler spends a great deal of time with another child and they are both interested in the same type of toy, it may be worth it to invest in two of the toys that they both go after first.

*Be proactive.  If you see your friends son reading your daughters favorite book, try to keep your daughter distracted OR invite both children onto your lap to read it together.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions regarding your toddler and biting.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

More modeling dough fun!

We love to use our modeling dough and it comes out at least once a day.  It's now on a shelf low enough for O to reach the box so he just goes over to get it when he's interested in working with it.  Here are are few more pictures of him using the dough and other various items.

One of the best things is opening the container, taking out the dough, putting it back in again, and then closing the lid.  This is a multi step process that keeps O focused and builds his concentration level.  He is learning how to work through multiple steps to complete a task.  This simple activity also builds fine motor development and spatial awareness.

Working with modeling dough is a sensory based activity that provides many opportunities for fine motor development - pinching, pushing, pulling, poking (all p's?!).  Using modeling dough and adding other materials you incorporate a number of textures, colors, shapes and many academic skills can be worked on such as math - counting the number of items you can stick into a pile of dough, science - exploring nature in a new way, descriptive language - talking about the textures and shapes you can make with the dough and labeling bumpy/smooth, etc...  

We use Clementine Modeling Dough and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cork and nut soup, anyone?

We went to my Mom's house for Thanksgiving dinner and arrived early to help her cook.  O offered to make his new specialty, an appetizer made with corks and walnuts.  

First, you scrub the nuts and corks.

Then you put them in a frying pan.  
(Oh, and don't forget to wear your Mardi Gras necklaces)

Finally, sauté until crispy.  

If you need to be in the kitchen for a period of time, I suggest giving your toddler some of the tools that resemble yours but that you will not need.  We gave O these items and he was engaged for at least 30 minutes.  He moved the nuts and corks back and forth between the silver mixing bowls, dumped them on the floor and then picked them back up again.  When he seemed like he was losing interest, I handed him the frying pan and he continued on with the activity.  

We spent the night at my Mom's and as we sleepily drank coffee and ate pie, O was busily preparing his next entree.  (Complete with Mardi Gras beads again)

Since Thanksgiving O has shown a greater interest in the kitchen supplies that he has access too.  He is constantly walking around the house with a silver mixing bowl and adding rocks and corks to it and stirring it up with a wooden spoon or whisk.  He has a small sauce pan that was my Grandmothers that he fills up, stirs, mixes and dumps out.  

If you have any extra cooking utensils, like wooden spoons, whisks, small pots, colanders or mixing bowls, put them out for your child to play with and see how they interact with them.  Encourage them to cook you a meal or just to mix up some ingredients. 

Engaging with these real materials, the ones that Mom and Dad use, have more meaning then the toy kitchen items.  They respect the materials more because they understand they hold a greater value and also because they belong to you.  It gives them the sense that they are participating in an activity that they see you doing and it makes them feel important and builds their confidence.  

Allowing your child to work with these items at an early age will most likely result in an interest in cooking and participating in the kitchen.  As your children gets older cooking includes many educational concepts in areas such as science and math.  

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Need something to do with your toddler?  Look no further then your 'To Do' list!

Little ones love to be near you and be involved in whatever you are doing, as I'm sure you've noticed.  Instead of waiting until nap time to get something done, why not ask your toddler for some help?  You can get check something off your To Do List and your child will be learning about real life activities, engaging in meaningful conversations (verbal or not), and making important observations and connections that will benefit them throughout their development.

Chores Your Toddler Can Help You With

* Unloading Dishwasher
* Laundry
* Gardening
* Putting groceries away
* Cooking
* Dusting
* Washing dishes
* Rinsing fruits and vegetables
* Watering plants
* Sweeping

To help with these important jobs, you need to rethink they way you go about them.  Instead of trying to quickly wash the dishes and do the laundry while your little one naps, relax and have a cup of coffee.  Think of your chores as activities to do and a means of entertainment, not something you need to rush through.

I'll use laundry as an example.  I have a bench near the washer where O stands and I hand him pieces of clothing and he drops them inside.  The first time he helped, he almost instinctively knew that they had to be all the way in and if there was a pant leg sticking out, he would make sure to shove every last piece.  When it comes to the dryer I put the basket of wet clothes in front of the dryer and he takes them out, one by one, and puts them inside.  Its a great time for conversation about colors and how things feel, their weights, and labeling articles of clothing.

Normally, you'd be shoving the clothes in as fast as possible to get on to the next thing but take it slow and realize what an opportunity is to share this meaningful time.

Here are some pictures of O helping with the laundry on vacation.  (The set up is different then our house so I was handing him the laundry piece by piece).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


 I found this set of drawers in my basement that I had planned on using for some organizing but forgot all         about.  I had an idea that O might like opening and closing, filling and emptying.  I was right :)

I put a set of blocks near the drawers to see if he'd use them.

Sometimes he'd open just one and put a few blocks inside.

Or he'd open all three at once and switch some blocks around.

He loved the big drawer the most and would put all the blocks in there and then disperse them throughout.  

This post is mainly meant to remind you to look at things in a different way now that there is a little one in your life.  Something that you might not think of as a 'toy' may be quite intriguing to a curious mind.  'Real' items, like this one, are both attractive and meaningful to children.  Remember that you do not need plastic toys that light up and make noise to engage a child.  

Other household items that might be interesting to put into your rotation might be pots and pans with lids, spatulas, wooden spoons and other cooking utensils, tupperware type containers and wicker baskets.  

Gourd Exploration

Early in the fall, we bought O a big bunch of gourds.  One morning when I got up before him, I put the gourds in a basket and put the basket out in the middle of the living room floor.  I didn't direct his attention to it as I wanted to observe his natural discovery.  After his morning routine of drinking kefir on my lap, he got down to play as usual but stopped when he saw the basket.  He knelt down to inspect it.

He removed them one by one and then put them back in. 

                 He realized some of them were heavier then others and required a two handed grip.

He couldn't verbalize it but it was obvious that he realized the different textures, some were bumpy and some were smooth.  

The colors were also bright and attractive.  There was a great deal of sensory stimulation with this simple activity.  

After living in this basket for a few days, I found some gourds ended up in his wagon that he pushes around the house and some ended up in his book corner.  They have officially become part of his collection of toys.  I love having nature inside the house for him to become familiar and comfortable with. Natural materials inspire investigations, open little ones up to the world around them and provide them with great sensory experiences.  

An activity like this might be good at any age if the child is able to lift something as heavy as a gourd.  If your child puts everything in their mouth, I would wash them off first.   As your child gets older gourds can be used for counting, learning colors, labeling textures (smooth, bumpy, pointy), and even sorting by shape/color/texture.  I did try to extend the activity by cutting a gourd in half for O to touch the insides but it wasn't successful.  He cheered when we got it open but had no interest in touching it.  Oh well, maybe next year.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Exploring Tin Foil

Another sensory activity for infants, I'd say from 4 months and up.  I placed a long sheet of tinfoil on O's highchair and taped it down underneath.  I placed him in his seat and then showed him what happened if I tapped on the foil.  He immediately started banging on the foil.  Then he moved on to scratching it with his fingers and of course he had to see how it tasted.  He was about 5 months here.

Other things to try: newspaper, cellophane, tissue paper, wrapping paper, brown packing paper, etc....

Monday, November 7, 2011

Modeling dough and then some

O loves modeling dough and for a while he would just poke it and pull it apart.  I've started introducing other materials alongside the play doh.  

If O could write...

          ...he'd be the guest blogger for the day since he invented this game.

Remember the post with the toilet paper tubes and empty beer case?  Well, O was busy with the tubes when he spotted his basket of rocks.  (Yes, one of his toys is a basket of rocks).  He started dropping rocks into the tubes that he'd put into the case.  Genius!  

Without planning, we were conducting an experiment.  O picked up rocks and tried to put them into the tubes, some fit right in and some had to be twisted and turned to fit.  And some were just too big, they were tossed to the side.  He  also seemed intent on filled each tube, one rock in each wasn't enough.  I'm always amazed how children's natural curiosities lead to amazing discoveries.  

Year two of pumpkin exploring

This year I cut the pumpkin in front of O so he could watch as the top came off and get a better understanding of where the seeds and gooey stuff comes from.  He was fascinated as I was cutting and said 'yaaaaay' when I finally got the top off.

Then he spent about 3 minutes taking the top off and putting it back on.  He made icky faces at the inside of the pumpkin so I knew it was going to be interesting to try and get him to touch it.  

After watching me pull most of the seeds out he finally was brave enough to touch them.  To have him be more successful at the slimy part of it, I pulled a bunch of seeds to the front of the pumpkin so that he didn't have to stick his whole arm in the pumpkin.  Once he saw them there he started pulling them out and smiled and made lots of his happy sounds.  

He played with the seeds for a while but eventually he scooped them all onto the floor.  Then he went back to the fun and non-sticky part of the experience.  

O is almost 16 months and I would recommend doing this activity during any age of toddlerhood.  The whole experience supports developmental growth - watching the pumpkin be whole then not whole, realizing that there is more too it then the hard & smooth skin, putting the top back on and fitting it into place, the touching and feeling.  As your toddler gets older you can even use an experience like this to introduce new words to their vocabulary.  And as one mom who explored a pumpkin with her child told me, she cooked the pumpkin for her son's lunch while he napped.  Ours is still sitting on his table because I want to see if he's curious about it at all for a second day, I'm guessing he'll at least take the top off a few more times.