Saturday, November 26, 2011

Potty talk

Toilet training toddlers doesn’t have to be a battle
ONE of the biggest challenges faced by parents of toddlers is toilet training.
I am a big advocate of early toilet training having had success with my first born who was toilet trained not long after she turned two and within two weeks (that is, two weeks of no daytime nappies, several accidents but eventual success), and now observing my second child who is 17 months of age and has been wearing her big sister’s knickers in the backyard and showing me that she has had an accident (early signs of becoming aware of her bodily functions).
It makes sense that the earlier a child has been introduced to the toilet or potty in a positive way, the less likely the child will be afraid to use it. 
Many parents choose to toilet train when they are ready instead of picking up signs from their child, but this may be too late and further problems can occur. Lazy parents be warned!
Research undertaken last year by the University of New South Wales showed that the window of opportunity to start toilet training is when they are aged 18 to 24 months.
Any later than 27 months can result in harmful effects on the child such as longer bed-wetting.
If you wait until the child is two, you may end up with more tantrums than success, because at this age they are engrossed in making their own decisions. They are very good at saying “no”. 
Also, some children become attached to their nappies as they offer security and familiarity. 
Signs that your child is ready for toilet training include: being able to walk and sit for short periods of time, becoming more independent, interested in watching others go to the toilet, has dry nappies for extended periods of time, tells you when they have done a poo or wee in their nappy, begins to dislike wearing a nappy, has regular bowel movements, can pull his or her pants up and down, can follow simple instructions such as “give Mummy the ball”, and shows understanding about things having their place in the home. 
Here are some tips that will help parents and toddlers during this stage in their development: 
* Introduce the potty into your daily routine by regularly taking them to the potty or toilet at appropriate times (ie. first thing in the morning, after a meal, before bedtime). 
* A child should never feel pressured as this may hinder their learning and understanding. The child may become afraid of making an accident and in turn find it hard to go to the potty if they are stressed or upset. Any stress within the family or major changes (such as moving house) could also set back potty training. 
* Give praise for small steps as your child learns and offer rewards such as a sticker. Go at your child’s pace and don’t expect too much. 
* Never punish your child for mistakes or accidents. This is a learning process and there will be good days and bad days. 
* Make sure your child is wearing something easy to get on and off, and easy to wash, such as training pants. Nappy-free time is also a good idea as nappies are essentially a portable toilet. 
* Watch your child for signs of wanting to use the toilet, such as expressions on their face or stopping very still for a moment, and guide them to the potty saying something like “let’s see if there’s a wee coming”. Eventually the child will understand and get there himself. 
* Toddlers find it hard to “hold on” for more than a few seconds, so if they tell you before they do a wee or poo, thank them and take them to the potty straight away. If they don’t make it in time, still offer praise.
* Don’t make a child sit on a potty for a long period of time as it will feel like punishment. 
* If your child is afraid of the toilet, you may need to flush it once they have left the room, then gradually offer them the opportunity to try flushing the toilet after it has been used. 
* Teach proper hygiene when using the toilet, including washing hands. Toddlers cannot wipe their bottom properly, so parents will need to do this until they get it right.
* Some children start hiding in strange places when doing a poo. There is no clear reason why they do this, but parents shouldn’t punish them, just make sure they have easy access to the potty. 
* Give your child plenty of water and fibre in their diet so they don’t become constipated. 
* It is very normal for toddlers to be fascinated by their own poo and many will put it on their hands and spread it around like playdough. While this is unpleasant to deal with, your child is not trying to upset you so don’t punish them. 
* Make it clear to your child that you will help them in the middle of the night if they wake up needing to go to the toilet. 
* Children are often busy with what they are doing and don’t always notice that their wee or poo is coming until it happens. 
It is a big task for a toddler to learn to control their bowels and bladder. Children become toilet trained at various ages. Some are ready at 18 months, some take a lot longer. 
Even if your child uses the toilet or potty during the day, it’s not time to throw away the nappies as night-time training may be as late as six years. 
Above all, toilet training is a big deal for a child so if you celebrate it the transition will be much easier for both of you. 
A good place to go for further tips and toilet training aids is:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Letters from Santa

If you’ve got children who are desperately trying to be good before Christmas, there are some great websites to help you get in the spirit of the season
With only 43 days until Christmas, I’ve found some fun ways to make this year’s event even more memorable, and particularly fun for the digital generation. presents an animated village where each house offers something new.
There are dozens of games, activities, recipes, weather station, e-cards, letters to Santa, freebies, crafts, stories and lots more.
This is a great place for kids who are bored during the holidays, but probably the best feature is the personalised Christmas stories that you can print featuring your child’s name. has short videos of real life at the Santa Claus’ Village at Rovaniemi in Lapland, as well as footage of the Northern Lights, Christmas around the world, places to see in Finland and more.
This site shows Santa in his everyday life, with the reindeers and elves helpful for kids who are unsure if he’s real or not.
There are also lots of links to associated sites such as where you can order an official letter from Rovaniemi, Santa Claus’ home town at the Arctic Circle., based in Alaska, is another site where you can get a letter from Santa, and each letter includes a keepsake photo of Santa, Santa’s Good List sticker, Santa dollar, and stamped with an “official mail” seal and North Pole postmark.
This site has been sending letters for almost 60 years, putting smiles on the faces of nearly two million children all over the world.
Letters are mailed to arrive just in time for Christmas, but you need to order by November 25.
They are available in 25 different formats for boys, girls, pets, grown-ups, couples, baby’s first Christmas, and much more. 
There are also plenty of sites offering emails from Santa, but I personally think a letter in the mail is far more special for a child.
If you want to teach your kids about the history of Santa Claus, as well as traditional activities, then visit where you will find crafts, printables, recipes, stories, games and lots of culture. 
I particularly liked the section on Christmas traditions from more than 30 different countries.
How would your child like to see a video of Santa personally welcoming your child, congratulating them for being well behaved and hints at what special treat might be under the Christmas tree? asks you a few questions about your child and then produces an adorable video. promotes holidays to Finland to meet Santa Claus in person.
Since most of us are staying down under for Christmas, there is an interesting Santa Cam which starts on December 1, where you can see inside and outside of Santa’s office as they prepare for Christmas.
For lots of laughs, go to where you can upload pictures of yourselves that are turned into dancing, singing elves.
You can create up to five elves, choose from numerous dance styles and then email the final video to friends and family. has a multitude of Christmas themed games, printables and more. Click on “Holidays”, then “Christmas” to get to the right section.
Then on Christmas Eve, don’t forget to log onto to track Santa’s journey around the world.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Minor meltdowns

Are you dealing with toddler tantrums? Try these tricks to tame your tot
My youngest stomps her feet, lets out an ear-piercing scream and then throws her body on the floor in a rage.
She’s having a tantrum, and since I can say I’ve “been there, done that”, it doesn’t faze me quite as much as it did with my first born.
But that doesn’t mean tantrums are just something to get used to, because there are many differences between one toddler and the next and it’s these differences that can leave some parents tearing their hair out and others smiling as if they have been given a secret recipe for taming their child.
Toddlers are extremely self-absorbed, developing their own personalities and learning about how the world works.
Tantrums are the most common way for a toddler to let out their anger, frustration, fear, jealousy or other similar feelings.
Often tantrums come from being unable to do something that they can’t yet do, such as dress themselves, or being prevented from having or doing something, such as getting a sweet treat from the supermarket.
Toddlers don’t have the inner strength that adults have to be able to cope with stress and frustration, even if it appears to be over something very trivial.
They also don’t often have the words to express what they need or want, so this is where parents need to get down at their level and show a lot of patience.
Young children often learn that parents will give in to what they want if they carry on long enough, so do not give in.
If your toddler learns that tantrums are having an effect on your behaviour towards them, they will end up throwing deliberate tantrums well into their fourth and fifth years to get whatever they want.
Say “no” and give them a reason why you are saying no, such as “You can’t have an iceblock because it’s almost time for dinner”.
Also remember that saying “maybe” means “yes” to every child, no matter what age they are!
Try to distract your toddler by giving them something else to do.
Ask them to make an important decision so they feel valued, such as “Shall we have a banana or watermelon for morning tea?”
Quite often the easiest way to stop a minor tantrum is to ignore them. But if tantrums happen often, think about what might be stressing your child. 
Is it because your child seeks attention, is tired, hungry, unwell or are there changes in routine such as starting childcare, or a new baby in the family?
Is your life so busy that you find it easier to give in every time your child has a tantrum?
If this is the case, then your child has learnt that tantrums are the best way to get what they want so they will continue with this type of behaviour.
To avoid tantrums, make sure you spend regular one-on-one time with your child. It’s a simple fact that if you give a child enough attention, they don’t need to misbehave to get your attention in the first place.
Other ways to avoid tantrums include putting things that your child wants, but cannot have, out of sight; go on outings after sleep time but not when your child is hungry; sticking to a routine, especially with meals and sleep times; and make sure there are lots of positive, fun times in your child’s day.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

When girls play with trucks and boys wear tutus

While we all aim to let kids be kids, it’s important not to influence them with gender stereotypes
Before I had children I hoped I would one day have a daughter.
Having come from a family of mostly boys, I worried I would end up with a football team, and no opportunity to indulge in playing Barbies, and become a “ballet mum”.
However, why should I have worried about these things, when playing with dolls and dancing is perfectly fine for boys as well as girls?
Now I’ve got two daughters who love pink, dolls, dancing and all things girlie, and I’m clearly guilty of gender stereotyping.
It worries me that I’m not passing on a message of equality between the sexes.
Children learn gender stereotypes from adults, the media, religion, toys, clothes, books and their peers.
Right from the start, parents are painting the nursery in blue or pink, and from then on the gender differences carry on throughout their childhood.
Finding gender neutral clothes and toys is not always easy, but what we can do as parents is choose how we act and behave.
We can behave like the stereotypes and act out gender roles in relationships, or we can challenge our children to view their parents as equals.
For example, if Dad does some of the cooking, then his son will see that it is a perfectly normal thing to do.
This is a huge challenge for my family as I do tend to follow the traditional housewife stereotype while my husband is the breadwinner (although before kids both of our careers were of equal importance).
I try to provide a variety of toys for my daughters from the traditional dolls and dress-ups, to blocks, Lego, cars and trains, but it is fascinating the way children have a natural inclination to follow gender specific pursuits.
For example, my daughter’s best friend is her next door neighbour Charlie, aged 5.
They play lots of role-playing games and while Charlie wants to be a dinosaur or an astronaut on a rocket ship, Laura wants to play mummies and babies.
What’s nice is that they compromise and play both games.
So if your daughter wants to ride a motorbike, or your son wants to wear a tutu, it’s okay, and it’s not going to cause them long term damage. 
In fact, it may well be healthy as boys who play with dolls will learn to be more nurturing and verbally expressive, while girls who kick a soccer ball around will learn spatial skills and confidence.
Although we want our children to feel free to express who they are and follow whatever interests them, we also have a duty to protect them from potential backlash.
A boy wearing a pink hat to school may be teased by his peers, while a girl who cuts her hair really short may be shunned by her friends.
Finding a balance is certainly not easy.
In recent news we’ve seen the Canadian parents who decided not to share the sex of their newborn, named Storm, as “a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation”.
And in Stockholm, Sweden, a preschool has been carefully planned to make sure the children don’t fall into gender stereotypes.
From staff who avoid using the words “him” or “her”, to the colour and placement of toys, the preschool is on a mission to break down gender roles.
While these are extreme cases, the problem children face is that gender expectations are firmly rooted in our culture.
With this in mind, the best way to parent boys and girls is to counteract the negative messages that society sends them.
Girls need to learn that there is more to life than meeting a prince, that dump trucks are cool, that maths and science can lead to great careers, that while it’s okay to be pretty ad nurturing, you can also be strong and smart, and that no one is allowed to hit them ever.
Boys need to learn that it is okay to cry and express your emotions, that it’s okay to like flowers, pretty colours and cute furry animals, that they can play with dolls, that they can be stay-at-home fathers, that women are people not objects, that while it’s okay to be strong, you can also be nurturing, and that violence is not acceptable ever.