I have been on the hunt for the perfect Montessori tray for a while and I have finally found one that I love.
Click the image below to purchase my favorite Montessori tray for toddlers because it is small enough for them to be able to pick up and carry but large enough to be able to put a decent amount of things on it. It is also smooth and does not have sharp edges.
These trays are great for organizing activities on your toy shelf. You can have multiple trays and put different activities on each. This is a nice way for you to organize your child’s play area and create several different types of invitations to play.
This post contains affiliate links which means that if you purchase something using one of my links I may receive a small commission at not additional cost to you.
Deep breathing is one of the most important skills that we can teach a child to help them learn how to regulate themselves. If your child has trouble calming down or they get stressed easily, deep breathing is a coping skill that can really help them.
They have all different sizes, colors, light up ones, and even glow in the dark. Glow in the dark ones would be super fun to use as a calming bedtime activity. You little one could lay in their bed and take deep breaths with their calming breathing ball to help them get sleepy, how cool!
DIRECTIONS: Start with the ball together. Slowly pull the ball apart as you take a deep breath in through your nose. Keep breathing in until the ball is fully extended. Then breathe out slowly through your mouth. The trick is to go very slowly. Tell your child that you want the air to fill their tummy up as big as the ball is getting.
Check out my previous post about how to teach your child about how their body and brain are like an engine and how we can learn to help our engine run smoothly. My previous post tells all about how to make an engine plate. If you have an engine plate on your refrigerator or classroom wall, you can have your dysregulated child check their engine plate and then use the breathing ball to help get their engine back in the green. After you do several repetitions they can check their engine again to see if they feel better. Ask them how their body feels. Depending on their mood you might say “Do you still feel like you could bounce off the walls, do you still feel very angry, do your fists still feel really tight or does your body feel more relaxed?”.
I would love to see how you and your little ones practice deep breathing with your spheres! Check out my instagram account thewholekidandkaboodle and post pictures of your breathing ball fun and #kaboodlebreathingballfun and tag @thewholekidandkaboodle
I first learned about engine plates when I was studying Child Development at Texas Christian University’s Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development. I am so grateful that I got to participate in several TCU Hope Connection Camps (therapeutic day camps for internationally adopted children). Engine plates were a very important tool used at the camps to help children regulate. The engine plate idea comes from The Alert Program which is a program used to teach children about self regulation.
What is self regulation:
Self regulation basically means being able to control one’s behavior, emotions, and thoughts. It is the ability to manage disruptive emotions and impulses.
Engine plates can be an extremely useful tool in helping children who have experienced trauma learn self regulation but engine plates are also AWESOME for helping all children and adults!! Children 3 and up can understand the engine plates as long as you explain them simply. (I have often explained to little ones that the color blue is like EEYORE, green is like WINNIE THE POOH, and red is like TIGGER (or use a show that they like to help explain) With children under 3 you can use the engine plates to remind you that you and your little one need to regulate your engines.
After working with parents and teaching parenting classes as well as being parent myself, I have realized that the #1 trick to helping your children have better behavior is learning how to regulate yourself so that you can better serve your children.
The ideas below come from The Alert Program and The Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development and their Trust Based Relational Intervention Model.
“Misbehavior” is often dysregulation.
Instead of viewing children as misbehaving, it can be helpful to look at their behavior and ask if they might possibly be dysregulated. If it is that they are dysregulated, we can figure out how to meet their needs in order to help them regulate.
How to use engine plates to teach children to be aware of their internal states:
Let your child help you make their very own engine plate. All you need is paper plates, markers, brads, and black construction paper for the arrow. (supplies are listed and linked below. I highly suggest parents make one for themselves as well (modeling is the best way to teach!) Pick a time your child is calm, rested, and fed to explain to them about how engine plates work. Tell them that your body is like an engine.
Sometimes your engine is running on RED: TOO HIGH (OR FAST) (I learned not to use the “high” term when working with substance abuse population and changed it to “fast” instead).
If your engine is running on RED this might mean that:
-You are feeling super super HYPER, you might have so much energy you feel like you could bounce off the walls, you might be running all over the house, you might be jumping up and down
-You might be ANGRY, you might feel so mad like you could punch something or like you might explode, your fists might feel tight, all the muscles in your body might feel tight
-You might be so hungry you are feeling angry
-You might be so tired that you are feeling so cranky
-Children who have experienced trauma often have overactive fear response systems and their brain may be triggered throughout the day because they are feeling scared.
-You might be so excited about something (even things that are exciting and positive like moving into a new house or going on a trip to disney world can register as stress in the brain and stress chemicals might be released in the brain) (like why you can’t fall asleep the night before you go to disney land etc)
If your engine is running on GREEN this might mean that:
-You feel just right, you feel calm, relaxed, ready to learn, able to concentrate, your tummy is fed, you have gotten the right about of sleep, you have had ample time to play
-The muscles in your body feel loose and relaxed
-You feel happy
If your engine is running on BLUE this means that:
-You may be feeling tired
-You may be feeling lonely, sad, or worried
-You may be hungry and feel so weak that you feel like laying down
-You might be thirsty
After explaining to your children what each of the colors mean then you want to teach them strategies to use when they realize their engine is running on red or blue to help get their engine back in the green.
Teaching coping skills:
HOW TO GET YOUR ENGINE OUT OF THE RED:
-Am I hungry? Have a healthy snack! Am I thirsty? Get a drink of water!! (Often children get dysregulated when their blood sugar is low or they are dehydrated. Children should have a healthy snack every 2 hours and their pee should be almost clear in color) ***TIP: keep a basket of healthy snacks and water bottles readily available in the home or classroom for children to get whenever they need it.
-Take deep breaths
-Do some jumping jacks, run a lap, listen to music, draw or color, play with play doh
-Push a wall (stand against a solid wall with knees slightly bent) and push the wall as hard as you can and count to 10. Repeat until you feel better. Take deep breaths.
-Do a chair push up (can be done in a school desk, hold yourself up in your chair or your desk using your arms)
-Do a chair pull up (pull up on the bottom of your chair)
-Squeeze play dough, tear paper, punch a pillow (safely),
-Use a calming glitter bottle to help aid in taking deep breaths
*Have your child try different strategies and ask them what works best for them. Each child is different and some strategies will work better than others for some kids.
HOW TO GET YOUR ENGINE OUT OF THE BLUE
-Do I need a nap? Do I need a snack? Do I need a drink of water?
-Do I need some love and support? a hug? A friend to talk to?
-Maybe I need a happy book or music
-Do I need someone to sit with me for some companionship
How to use engine plates in the home:
Keep engine plates in the areas of your home that you are in most often. For my family, the kitchen is the center of everything so we keep our engine plates on the refrigerator. Throughout the day, take your child to their engine plate and ask them to examine where they think their engine might be at. First you might show your child how you are examining your own engine. “Mommy’s engine is running on blue because mommy is very tired and hungry”. Then you might say “Mommy needs to get a healthy snack and have a nap” (or coffee, lets be real). Or maybe you say “Mommy’s engine is running on red because when you yell and scream in the house it makes mommy feel stressed” (if this is the case, perhaps the child’s engine is running on red as well and you might say, I wonder if your engine is running on red too, maybe it would help if we went to the park to get some of your energy out, or maybe it would help if you did some jumping jacks or hopped like a bunny 10 times, do a wall push, carry a heavy bag of beans etc).
The important thing is to help your child become aware of their internal states. As a parent I am always checking my engine mentally. If I notice that I am getting very frustrated with my child I start to realize that maybe my engine is out of whack and I need to meet my bodies needs in a certain way. (this might mean, going to bed earlier the that night or increasing self care)
I would love to see how you use your engine plates in your homes! Please take pictures and tag me on instagram: @thewholekidandkaboodle and use the hashtag #engineplatesforthewin
How to use engine plates in the classroom:
Engine plates can be used in schools, daycare settings, residential treatment programs, etc. to help teach children self regulation.
Have your students each make an engine plate. Teach them what each of the colors mean. Hang the engine plates up in your classroom or have each child keep their engine plate at their desk. Create times throughout the day to have your children check their engines and evaluate how they are feeling. Allow your children to keep water bottles at their desk and have healthy snacks throughout the day to keep their blood sugar regulated. Allow children to have physical activity breaks throughout the day.
If you have a calm down corner in your classroom (hopefully you do!) then an engine plate is a perfect thing to add to your calm down corner.
If you are a teacher you might have each child create an engine plate and send directions home with the parents on how to use them at home. Getting teachers and parents to use the same behavior management strategies will be very helpful.
Engine plates can be used as an alternative to classroom behavior management strategies such as behavior charts. I am not a fan of behavior charts because often the same children are the ones who are struggling with difficult behavior. These children rarely get stars, coupons, prizes, etc because they are the ones who really need help learning how to regulate. If you are looking for new behavior strategies to use in your classroom I highly recommend checking out The Trust Based Relational Intervention Model for Classrooms.
I would love to see how you use your engine plates in your classrooms! Please take pictures and tag me on instagram: thewholekidandkaboodle and use the hashtag #engineplatesforthewin
Engine plates should never be used to shame children!
This should be a playful and positive approach to tackling difficult behaviors. A child should never be shamed for being “in the red or being in the blue”. Do not send notes home to parents explaining that the child was bad, you do not know what type of punishment children receive when they get home. Children deserves a fresh start when they get home. They shouldn’t have to get home and start out on a bad note at home because they had a rough day at school. In order for children to recharge for the next day of school they need to go home, play, and rest (not be scolded and punished). The goal is to help children become aware of their internal states and teach them coping skills for getting their bodies and brains back into the green into a calm, focused, and able to learn state.
This post may contain affiliate links which means if you purchase something using one of my links I may receive a small commission at not additional cost to you.
We had so much fun making sensory soup. This is a perfect Valentines activity that engages the senses. It smells delicious too! You little one will have so much fun stirring it up and smelling it! After we got done mixing it all up we then poured it into our bathtub and made a big bath of rose bubble fun. This activity kept us busy all morning! (with a toddler that is a total win!) I let my little guy throw the unicorns bath toys in the bath tub for even extra fun!
Click on the images below to purchase ingredients similar to what we used in our Rose sensory soup:
*This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something using one of my links I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Did you know that you can prevent/solve many of children’s difficult behaviors by engaging the senses?
Aside from the senses that are often talked about: smell, touch, taste, hear, and sight, there are some other very important senses that play a role in our daily life.
I created a gross motor room in my house for my child to get out his extra energy. Some of these activities address the proprioceptive sense and the vestibular sense. Proprioceptive input helps children’s brains calm and organize. Our Vestibular system deals with inner ear fluid and helps us know where we are in space. With all activities below, pay attention to your child’s cues. Sometimes a child can get dysregulated by too much of certain stimuli so always pay attention to how your child is acting and stop activities if they seem to be getting dysregulated.
Click on the link below to purchase the mats we used:
They are awesome for helping your little one get their energy out before naps and bedtime and provide an excellent gross motor exercise activity on rainy or cold weather days where outside play is not an option.
If you click on the images in this post they will take you to amazon to purchase the item if you would like to.
Here is a tunnel similar to the one we have:
This slide is on my wish list:
This one is cool too:
This is a great climber as well:
Jumping on a trampoline provides children with great proprioceptive input and gets their energy out!
If you have hardwood floor I suggest using a mat underneath like this one:
A mat like the one below is also good too add for some extra cushion:
A large ball is fun for little ones to roll and roll on: (proprioceptive input)
I am obsessed with this ball pit: (proprioceptive input)
Rockers like these would be great: (vestibular input)
A sit and spin is also a good addition: (vestibular input)
This swing is awesome: (but it does say age 3 and up) (vestibular input)
This crash pad is perfect for jumping onto: (your child can even jump from the slide backward onto this crash pad)
If you have a big enough space, this trampoline is amazing!
*This blog post contains affiliate links which means if you make a purchase using one of my links I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you <3
Valentines Pom Pom Scoop:
These Extra Large Valentines Pom Poms are perfect for toddlers who still put things in their mouth because they are not a choking hazard. They are great for scooping and transfer work.
Valentines Day is a perfect time to teach your toddler all sorts of things! Some concepts you can introduce to your toddler are the heart shape, the color RED, color PINK, etc.
The sensory table below is the Ikea Kallax Sensory table and you can purchase it on Amazon here.
Valentines Duck & Pom Pom Tray
Another activity I created for my toddler is this Valentines duck and pom pom pour activity. Some activities you might try with this tray: count number of ducks, sort by color, separate ducks from pom poms, transfer from bucket to tray, what sound does a duck make? Your little one can use tongs to transfer objects to the bucket for more complicated fine motor practice. You can even add water for more sensory fun!
Let your little one have fun scooping, counting, and color sorting these Valentine colored pom poms. These pom poms are cute also. I have also created a therapeutic activity with this tray. Click here (coming soon but in the mean time go to my Instagram thewholekidandkaboodle for directions on how to Teach Your Child Pom Pom Soup Deep Breathing to help combat your child’s excess energy, stress, hyperactivity, and problem behaviors.
Looking for an edible sensory tray filler?
You can click on the images below to purchase these edible sensory bin fillers on amazon:
Here are some Valentines Day sensory bottles that I made:
Below I have linked some of my other favorite craft items to buy for Valentines Day crafts & sensory bottles: just click on the image to purchase from Amazon!
These pipe cleaners and pom poms are fun sensory bin fillers!
Put a piece of scotch tape on the back of these foam hearts and let your toddler stick them to the wall or the floor. They will get a kick out of this!
Put this washi tape down on the table and let your toddler peel it off…loads of entertainment and great fine motor skills practice!
These foam stickers are perfect for helping little ones with their fine motor skills practice. The doilies can be glued onto paper for fun toddler art work!
I am obsessed with these heart shaped foam confetti! These would be awesome for sensory bin filler!
This heart shaped wooden spoon would be so fun to stir a sensory bucket filled with all kinds of valentines day filler or letting your little one help out with valentines day baking!
This valentines baking mold is so cute! It would be fun to bake in but also use to separate pom poms by color or hold valentines stickers and pom poms.
These hearts would be fun inside a sensory bottle!
These bottles are perfect for sensory/discovery bottles because they have a wide mouth at the top so you can fit decent sized objects inside.
This extra fine glitter is perfect for making valentines sensory bottles.
These heart erasers would be cute inside a sensory bottle, just add rice!
These rose petals would be fun sensory bin filler.
These felt balls are awesome for scooping, sorting, and using as sensory bin filler.
This Grimms wooden heart set is on my wants list!
These wooden beads would be super cute in a sensory bottle mixed with some more colorful plastic beads.
These candy hearts are what I used in my sensory bottle that I mixed with rice. My toddler likes to shake it and hear the sound it makes.
These are some of my favorite Valentines books:
Fine Motor Skills Activity
I found the velvet rose at the dollar store and then paired with our HABA toy :
Below you can see a photo of my 16 month old’s Valentines themed play shelves:
Here are some toys similar to the ones on my Valentines shelf that would be super fun:
*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using my links.
These sensory bottles are a great way for your little one to explore and discover christmas ornaments and christmas trees without actually touching the tree! Toddlers have a natural inclination to explore everything and this will help fulfill their need!
Click on the image below to purchase the bottles I used to make these sensory bottles! What I like about these bottles is the whole at the top is large enough to put fairly good sized items like these mini christmas ornaments.
I used mini christmas ornaments like these to fill the bottles
You could also use Christmas bells!
I used Christmas trees like these to fill one of the bottles:
You can also add rice to any of the bottles for a little extra noise!
*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using my links.
There is nothing more festive than an awesome Gingerbread house decorating party! There is nothing more annoying than having a Gingerbread house that won’t stay together and candy that falls off. Luckily, you can learn from my mistakes because I finally found THE MOST PREFECT GINGERBREAD HOUSE KITS that won’t fall apart and the icing that is provided actually works and the candy sticks! NO MORE EMBARRASSING GINGERBREAD HOUSE DECORATING PARTY BUSTS!
Click on the image below to purchase these super easy Gingerbread House Kits
The kit comes with everything you need, the icing, the candy, & the house is already put together so you don’t have to worry about it falling apart. If you want to be extra spiffy you can get extra candy to decorate:
For kids I suggest having a bowl of candy at each of their seats so they don’t fight over the candy. I used plastic bowls like these so each child had their own bowl of candy (and every child had the same candy..) this makes for happy little decorators 🙂
I used green plastic chargers but if you are wanting to protect your table, covering your table with paper like the one below would be super cute!
Santa hats or headbands put everyone in a festive mood 🙂
Don’t forget an apron for the host!
Don’t forget cups, plates, & napkins!
If it is a party for all kids, don’t forget to serve some healthy snacks! They will eat candy but they will eat less if you also serve healthy snacks!
*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using my links.
Wondering how you can decorate your house for Christmas with a toddler in the house? Creating a fun Christmas play space for your child is a great way to bring Christmas cheer into your home without having to worry about your child getting into the decorations and breaking something. The plastic snow globes and the wooden christmas themed houses in the photo above were found in the dollar section at Target. Below are links to some awesome items on Amazon that would be great additions to a toddler Christmas themed play space.
Below is a picture of my toddler christmas themed book shelf:
Click on the images below to purchase these festive Christmas toys on Amazon!
What age you should start “disciplining” your child?
I was inspired to write this post because of reading Whitney Ports insta post where she was asking questions like “when should kids be taught the difference between right and wrong, safe and unsafe, good and bad, nice and mean. She mentions not wanting to be one of those no no no no parents but also doesn’t want her child to have no boundaries. Her question is such a great one and is something that I am currently going through with my almost 1 year old. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist and am still navigating mom life day by day. This post explains how I have used my knowledge in the field of child development when working with my 1 year old.
Baby Discipline: 1 year old
The first step is to exchange the word “discipline” for the word “teach”. It is a parents job to “teach” their baby about the world even before age 1. All the ways you interact with your child teach your child about their world. Starting at birth we want to teach our children that the world is a safe place, their needs will be met, and that there is an adult who is bigger/stronger/wiser who will take care of them and keep them safe. So even though I am suggesting you get rid of the word “discipline” from your parenting vocabulary, your children still will learn boundaries that you teach and set for them.
How to teach your 1 year old “to mind”:
This is kind of an old timey phrase that my parents generation used “teach that kid to mind” type of mentality. The fact is that if we set up a child’s environment in a way that will lead to their success, the focus shifts from teaching them to mind to teaching them how to thrive.
Setting your child’s environment up for success:
It is important to try to create an environment for your child where they can be as successful as possible. I have done my best to child proof my house so that my little one can be free to explore most things. When the house is child proofed I do not have to spend as much time and stress telling my child “no” every 5 seconds because they are getting into things. I have become way less stressed and my child is happier. At this age children are so curious about everything and by child proofing as best as possible, I can let my child explore and he loves this. He hates being in a play pen. I have a play pen and I use it when I have to but I try let him be free to explore most of the time. Another thing I try to do is give my child ample time of outdoor activities. Taking a walk, splashing in the pool, swinging on the park swings, going to feed the ducks. During most of these activities I realize that I hardly ever have to tell my child no because they are having so much fun. I think that when children get bored they tend to “get into stuff” a lot more. If the weather isn’t good or swimming isn’t an option I will let my little guy splash in the sink in his bath chair or in the tub. This is a great way for him to expel energy. Babies who get their energy out and have ample time for play and exercise exhibit less acting out behaviors. I try to almost never tell my child no (I am constantly working on this even though saying no is sometimes my first instinct). I think you want to provide so many “yes” experiences by creating a proper environment described above that you only have to say no on rare and serious occasions.
Is it ever okay to use the word “no” when disciplining your child?
The fact is, if you constantly say “no” to your child you will begin to sound like a broken record and they will completely disregard what you are saying. Children will take attention any way they can get it and if they realize that doing things they are not suppose to do causes you to come over to them and say no and make a big fuss, they will continue to do the things just to push your buttons and get a reaction out of you.
One exception that I use the word “no” for is physical harm and danger. But even in these types of situation you can often correct the behavior without actually saying the word “no”. Say your child is pulling your hair. You can say “no hurting mommy” or “be gentle” or “mommy’s hair is not for pulling”. If my child kept pulling my hair I would say “no hurting mommy” and put my child down or move myself out of harms away. I would then try to engage my child in a new activity “look, lets play over here with your toy car”. Redirecting your child to a more acceptable activity is a great way to change their behavior in a positive way.
Using empathy when you set limits with you child:
This is one of the most helpful concepts in working with children of all ages. Say your one year old is about to reach their hand in the toilet because they think it is fun to splash in there you can say ” I know you think that is really fun but our toilet is not for splashing in” and pick them up and move them to a safe location. Toilet locks come in handy as well so you can prevent the whole situation or keeping the bathroom door shut but sometimes your little ones discover new things and you have to respond in the moment. Another example of using empathy when setting limits or boundaries with your child: say your child is banging a toy on your glass coffee table you might say “I know you are really having fun making music with that but our table is not for breaking” and hand them a soft toy that they can hit on the table that will not break the table (or just get rid of the glass table…because is it really worth it?)
Discipline approaches that you should never use:
One approach that I think is absolutely NOT a good approach would be to try to disiciple a 1 year old with using a fear method, such as spanking them for getting into things they aren’t suppose to or for not listening. Child Development theorists Erik Erikson would say that during 0-18 months a baby is learning to either trust or mistrust their caregivers and the outcome of this can either be a healthy trajectory for your child or a negative one. Attachment theory explains that when a parent consistently meets a child’s needs in a loving way the child learns that their parent is a “secure base” (a safe person to turn to in times of fear) to seek comfort and reassurance. By using fear as a means to “control” your 1 year old, you are teaching them that they cannot always trust you and that sometimes you are frightening (which is extremely damaging to children emotionally).
Increasing positive interactions with your child will decrease the need for “discipline”:
If you are stressing out about how to discipline your child, I urge you to change your focus on increasing positive interactions with your child. Instead of following your one year old around waiting for them to “get into something” create a situation in which you can play with them. Carry them to a safe play space and say to them “lets play”. Put your phone and other distractions away and be present with your child more often throughout the day. I have found that when I am fully available to my child not only physically there with them but mentally and emotionally present to play with him, he his less interested in “getting into things” and more interested in playing with me.
Remember your goal is to be your child’s teacher. If they are doing something they are not suppose to do, teach them what they can do. Remember to limit the amount of words you use when you are trying to get your point across to your child. One rule of thumb is use 1 word for every year old that they are. For example, if my 1 year old tries to eat a leaf off the ground I will take it out of his mouth and say one word “yucky”. I try to use some of the same very simple phrases over and over with my child to help it sink in such as: “not safe” and “be gentle”. Be aware of the positive to negative ratio of comments you make to your child in a day. You want most of your interaction with your child to be positive. If you find yourself constantly correcting your child, find ways to comment on the positive things they are doing.