Archive for March 2014

Temper Tantrums X 2: 6 Tips and Tricks For Ending Them Quick or Avoiding Them Altogether

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sometimes I wonder if my girls have crafted a plan to throw raging temper tantrums at the exact same time. I know you are identical, but really... identical tantrums?

Watching my children scream, kick, yell, and melt down isn't much fun, and we've had some real doozies in the past.

Yes, I was that mom that had to slide her screaming, laying on the floor twins out of the doorway when storytime ended at the library, and they weren't ready to leave.

Yes, I was the mom who continued to stand in line at Target with the screeching and crying twins trying to unbuckle themselves and jump out of the cart because I refused to return later that night to re-shop.

Yes, I was that mom who watched her twins kick and scream while scooting their little bodies around in circles at My Gym because they had to take turns on the trampoline.

And, yes, I was that mom that joined in with the crying one cold, snowy day when I literally couldn't take it anymore!

With my patience wearing thin, I knew I had to do something to help my two-year-olds work through their drama.

So, what did I do?

I read books, articles, and blog posts.  I picked up some great tips and tricks that I've made my own and have helped nip those awful temper tantrums in the bud.

My Top 6 Tips For Squashing Temper Tantrums or Avoiding Them Altogether

1.  As soon as I see a tantrum coming on, I squat down eye level with my little one and use Dr. Harvey Karp's (They guy who wrote The Happiest Baby and Toddler on The Block books) advice of Fast Food Rule and Toddlerese.  It's simple and really effective.

  • Fast Food Rule- repeat what your child is saying or trying to say for a few time until she quiets down
  • Toddlerese- do this using short, simple words and phrases in a slightly dramatic tone to mirror a fraction of your child's tone

Example: G begins crying because I won't give her another cookie.  I squat down to her level and point to the pantry in a slightly upset tone of voice saying, "Cookie! Cookie! G wants cookie!"
This stops all crying about 95% of the time.  No lie!  Dr. Karp says it's because your toddler thinks, "Hey, mama gets me.  She understands me."  I wonder if they are just staring at me thinking I'm crazy. But, if it works, I don't care the reason.
Once she stops crying I will say something like, "Mama says no cookie, it's almost dinner time. Then I try to give her options of something I want her to eat or distract her with something we can play together like  "Look at this, I see Minnie Mouse on this coloring book.  Do you want to use the blue crayon or the pink crayon to color her? Ok. Mama will use the blue crayon."  Sometimes, this means giving up five minutes from whatever I was doing to play, but I'll take that over 5 minutes of screaming any day.
Sometimes she will start crying again, so I go back to the first step of repeating until she has quieted down again.

Sometimes I feel silly when I'm out in public talking in toddlerese, but I'm so happy with the result that I don't care what a passersby might think of me!

2.  The Magical Hand Stamp: I have a non-toxic washable inkpad and stamp on every floor in my house.  My girls love being rewarded with a hand stamp.  Even more so when I let them choose which stamp they would like on their hand.
When I catch the girls behaving kindly or cleaning up I give them a hand stamp.  When I first introduced the hand stamp, I stamped their hand for the littlest things, sharing a toy, putting away a block, getting their shoes on without a fit, etc... Now, when I've asked for something to be done, and I see that little toddler angst rearing its ugly head,  I pull out the stamps and say, "Wow, wouldn't it be great to get a stamp for ...?"  Most of the time that kicks my little ones into high gear and mama's wish is granted.  That's why I call it the Magical Hand Stamp.  Plus, the girls love to share the stamps they've earned with Daddy when he gets home for work.
*the tricky part with stamps and twins is I never want to compare by saying "J did this, why can't you, G?"  That's why I've been against using sticker charts.  We don't need reminders posted on the wall of how someone else is better than us.  Luckily, the hands are a bit more subtle and they wash off, so we can always start anew.

3.  The Power of Choice:  My toddlers don't like to be told what to do all the time.  It's that whole developing a sense of autonomy.  One of my favorite child development experts, Erik Erikson's has a theory of child development that teaches us that toddlers need to develop autonomy to overcome shame and doubt.  As a teacher, I was always providing choices to my students. As a mom, I find myself doing the same.  I can avoid many temper tantrums by simply providing my girls with choices.  The key is to offer only 2 choices at a time, and to make the choices what I want to be done.
Example:  J doesn't want a diaper change.  Instead of fighting her and trying to diaper a crying, thrashing two year old, I let her chose which diaper she would like to wear.  The one with baby Elmo or baby Cookie Monster on it.  If I don't have different diapers, then I might offer a choice of where she wants her diaper changed or if she wants me or daddy to change her diaper.  The key is don't ask open ended questions here.  If you ask, "Where do you want me to change your diaper?"  She will say, "No!"  But, if I give her the choice, "Do you want Mama or Papa to change your diaper".  Then, she will have to pick one. Giving them just a little power and control in their day makes a world of difference.

4.  Be Prepared: I love being a stay at home mom.  But, running errands with twins often makes me think about returning to the workforce.  I don't have a sitter to leave the girls with every time I need too run an errand.  They need to learn how to occupy themselves when they would rather be doing something other than shopping.  How do they learn?  I keep an arsenal of fun things to do in my bag at all times that I change up on a pretty regular basis.  I keep a bookbag in the car filled with easy to grab activities so that I can pick and choose what to bring in with us.  For example, v-tech tablets are fine for the noisy grocery store, not ok at the quiet bakery.  I decided to empty out my bag and take a picture of what I had in there today.

v-tech tablets, fancy pens, baby food container entertainers (see below), sesame street guys, Melissa and Doug re-stickable puffy stickers dress-up scenes, a funny duck and cow from the dentist, fisher price magic writer,  books, crayons, stickers, and coloring books from the target dollar section
I use leftover baby food containers and fill them with little things like stickers, pom poms, wiggle eyes, play dough balls, etc... to pull out for those boring errands
As their attention span grows, they are content playing with one toy for a longer amount of time.  That means I only have to carry around 2 or 3 different toys per child (the power of choice).  My girls are in a I want what she has stage, so it's easier for me to be prepared.

Also, I pack snacks!!  When we are out shopping, my girls seem to get a serious case of the munchies.  I buy portable snacks that I can throw in my purse and pull out as needed (see photo below for some all-time favorites.)
The purple munchkin snack container(top right) is great for holding animal crackers, berries, or leftover breakfast items

5.  Give A Heads Up: I found that by giving my girls a warning prior to leaving a fun activity or having to clean up has helped stop many tantrums. Even though the concept of time is still developing, the girls get that when I say, "10 minutes until we put on our shoes to go home", means we will be leaving soon so I better get my last few minutes of playtime in.  I also try to give a 5 minute and a 2 minute warning. A lot of times by the 2 minute warning one or both of the girls have stopped playing and are ready to go.

6.  When All Else Fails, and/or It's Just One of Those Days:  I remind myself that we all have bad days, even 2 year olds.  As my dad says, "This too shall pass."
I sit down on the ground and count to 10 out loud so that girls can hear me calming myself down. Sometimes I might do this five or six times. Most of the time, they will crawl up on me, crying,  looking for hugs.  I model as I say, "breath in through your nose and out through your mouth" until we are calm.  Sometimes I will sing a soft song and rock back and forth as we hug.  Once everyone is quiet, I use simple sentences to review the problem, how we can make it better, and how we can act differently next time.  I also make sure to say, "I love you".  I believe its important for your kids to know that you still love them no matter how angry or sad they may have gotten.

I've tried separating them in separate rooms, but the other one will follow me back screaming. Although I've heard some moms of twins do this successfully, giving a cool down time for the one twin.  When my girls are at this point, they want hugs, not alone time.

There have been a few occasions when the screaming and crying has REALLY gotten to me.  I know I need a cool down.  I've put the girls in their bedroom, gone into the bathroom and turned on the fan to serve as white noise. It may only be 30 seconds, but that 30 seconds allows me just enough time to regain my composure and start from the beginning.

Sometimes just reminding myself that I'm not perfect and raising twins isn't easy, helps me get through those really tough days.

I hope these tips help you and your little ones regain some peace!

I'd love to hear any tips you might have for stopping temper tantrums, especially for twins.

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Shape Necklaces

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A few weeks ago I introduced these shape necklaces to the girls.  I made them using leftover scrapbooking paper and ribbon.  

The girls and I each wear one when we are at home.  It's been a great way to practice naming shapes, and they have a lot of fun hunting for the shapes around the house.  This morning Juliette found an arch on my coffee mug handle, so clever!  I'm constantly surprised by them. 

I think they are ready for me to add a few more shapes to the mix.  Maybe an oval and hexagon will be next...

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St. Patrick's Day Craft for Toddlers

Monday, March 17, 2014

Since today is St. Patrick's Day, I thought I would share a fun and easy craft the twins and I made today.


thin strips of construction paper in the colors of the rainbow
black construction paper to cut out a pot for the gold
gold coins  (I had leftover coins that I got from Michael's for an alphabet project.)
White construction paper
Glue Sticks

Here is the finished project.  I had to add some Elmer's school glue to the coins.  The glue stick just wasn't strong enough.  
This project is great for practicing color names and for working on fine motor development. Using a glue stick is challenging:) 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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Visiting The National Aquarium in Balitmore with Toddlers

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My 2 year olds love the National Aquarium!  It's a great place to visit. Especially when it's too cold or rainy to do much outside.   However, be prepared for huge crowds on cold, rainy weekends and on holidays.  In order to beat the crowds, I've found it best to get there right when it opens.

Parking and Strollers

There are quite a few parking garages in the inner harbor.  The closest garages to the aquarium are probably Lockwood Place or Harbor East.  As a member you get a discount on parking at the Lockwood Place Garage on Market Place. Sometimes, they will even offer members free parking on special days if you arrive by a certain time.  You will have to walk outside and cross Pratt St. (about a 5 minute walk), so be prepared for the weather. With young twins, a stroller is helpful.  However, the aquarium has a strict NO STROLLER policy.

When you arrive you can easily check your stroller for free.  The stroller checker will let you keep your coats on it, so you don't have to pay for a locker.  They offer free use of a baby carrier, but obviously if you have multiples, that won't work unless you bring someone along with you. I never used one of their carriers.   We first started going to the aquarium when the girls were about 14 months old, so they would walk until they got tired and then my husband and I would carry them.  Now that they are older, they can walk for longer, but the aquarium requires ALOT of walking.  They still haven't made the entire trip without wanting to be carried for at least a little bit.

I haven't ventured to take the girls on a weekday by myself, I'm no longer strong enough to carry both of them and a diaper bag for longer than 2 minutes. But as a former teacher, I know that it is a very popular field trip destination.  Lots of kids with few adults. You may want to visit towards the end of the school day, after 2:00, when most school groups would be returning back to school for bus dismissal.

Toddler Favorites and Must Sees

The aquarium recently underwent some major renovations.  The new Blacktip Reef exhibit is huge and allows for both above and underwater viewing.  My girls like looking for Calypso, the huge green sea turtle who is missing a flipper.  She had to have it amputated when she was very young because of an infection. There are a lot of sharks, fish, and rays to check out.  It's a very colorful display and the glass walls making viewing easy for little ones.

In the photo above, you can see my girls captivated by the bubble towers.  They are part of the entrance into the Blacktip Reef.  They aren't really interactive, but my girls seem to think they can control the bubbles by touching the glass.

The girls love the people movers/escalators that take you from one floor to the next.  I know these aren't intended to be part of the exhibits, but they are very entertaining to a toddler.

The puffins are a lot of fun to watch.  You can view them diving below water and going for a swim. They are located just outside of the tropical rainforest. The rainforest is also a really cool exhibit. There's a three toed sloth, birds, and a tamarin moving above and beside you as you walk in the open exhibit.  But, be prepared it is humid! Not so good for my hair:)

The dolphins are always fun to view.  You can sit and watch a show, or just pop in to see them at anytime.  The stands make an excellent stopping point to eat a snack while watching the dolphins play with their toys and leap and flip.  You can also view the dolphins from an underwater viewing area.

Just outside of the dolphin arena there is a kids area.  I'm not sure many people know it's there.  It's sort of tucked away.  There is an area to read books, a puppet theater with puppets, a please touch water exhibit, a Velcro wall to hang removable underwater creatures, and some blocks for sitting or climbing. It's not the best play area, but it's a nice place to take a break.

Another popular area for my girls is the long ramp that winds down through the sharks.  On our last visit, we saw scuba divers cleaning the tanks and playing with the animals.  The girls love this ramp.  I'm not completely sure why, but I think it's because it's dark and they can sort of run (at toddler speed) down the ramp.

The jellyfish exhibit is usually our final stop.  There is something so peaceful and serene watching the jellies glide through the water. The girls especially liked the moon jellyfish.  I think it has something to do with their fascination with the moon.

Helpful Tips

The aquarium lets you carry a backpack with snacks and drinks.  There is a full cafeteria style restaurant, and a small cafe that serves drinks and light fare.

Restrooms are few and far between, so you're best bet is to use the restrooms when you first enter.

I hope you get a chance to visit the National Aquarium in Baltimore sometime. If you have any questions, I would be glad to try and answer them.

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Website Under Construction

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

My website is currently under construction.  Not too much longer and it will all be up and running smoothly!

Thanks for visiting!

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Five Green Shamrocks: A Counting Rhyme and Hiding Game

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Five Green Shamrock rhyme has been around for quite a while.  I'm not sure where it originated from, but I  wanted to share it, and how I modified the simple rhyme into a fun counting game.  

Five Green Shamrocks

One green shamrock, in the morning dew;
another one sprouted, and then there were two.

Two green shamrocks, growing beneath a tree;
another one sprouted, and then there were three. 

Three green shamrocks, by the cottage door;
another one sprouted, and then there were four.

Four green shamrocks, near a beehive
Another one sprouted, and then there were five.

Five little shamrocks, bright and emerald green,
think of all the luck these shamrocks will bring.  

The set-up was super easy.  I bought the foam shamrocks from Michael's and I stuck a foam number sticker to each one. 

I displayed the shamrocks as I repeated the poem a few times with my girls.

Then, I hid the shamrocks in the living room while the girls tried not to peek from the other room. (You may notice that my past few games involve hiding things, my girls are really into that right now, so I'm going with it). 
They had so much fun looking for all the shamrocks.  Once they found all five, we would line up the shamrocks in numerical order and then point to each one while counting.  This was great practice for number recognition and one-to-one correspondence.  

After a few games, the girls started placing the shamrocks in order as they would find each one.  It was so cute, to see them recognize which shamrocks were still hiding, and then to hear them go around calling,"Three, where are you?"  

This is a really simple St. Patrick's Day activity.  Most toddlers love rhyme and repetition, so this would be an easy game to store with the poem in a ziploc baggie, and then pull it out to play again and again. 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  

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