Can you imagine if your kid handed you a book at bedtime, and you shrugged and said, “Sorry, I’m just not that good at reading”? It sounds ridiculous, but somewhere in the world right now, there’s a kid asking a question that has to do with numbers, and a parent shrugging and saying, “I’m just not that good at math.”
I admit it. Those words have entered my mind, if not crossed my lips. I’ve got a dad who’s a mathematician, and up through high school I loved math. I even considered becoming a math teacher. But math is like a muscle—stop using it and it atrophies.
That’s why when a new book called Bedtime Math landed on my desk, I couldn’t help but take a peek. The concept is simple: what if math became as much a part of the bedtime routine as reading? Laura Overdeck, the book’s author, wants kids to feel about math “the way they feel about dessert after dinner.” For a year, she’s been serving up a playful daily math problem for parents to do at bedtime with their kids. I’m not talking paper-and-pencil math. I’m talking exploding food problems, slimy subtraction, and skateboard launch comparisons.
Like you, I had a hard time sending my kids to school today. Kissing them goodbye some mornings is easier than others. When we’re running late and everyone’s cranky? Easy. When we’ve had a morning of snuggles and cute breakfast table banter? Hard. This morning was pretty typical at our house– sibling fights, picky eaters, and unmatched sock meltdowns. But through it all, I found myself looking at my kids and thinking “Thank you”. Like all of us, I’d spent the weekend processing the details of the unthinkable Sandy Hook tragedy and this morning, pulling out that casual “Have a good day” and waving goodbye in the drop-off line at school was excruciating and terrifying.
And so, like many of you, today I rest on tears’ edge trying to get on with my day. To do my job, to get organized for the holidays, to not count the minutes until my children are back in my arms. And, like you, I’m also trying to make sense of the senseless. How do I talk about it? How do I think about it? What do I do?
None of us has answers to these questions, but here’s where I start.
First, as a mom, as a citizen of our country, and as the Editor-in-Chief of Education.com on behalf of our entire team, I’d like to send my deepest sympathies to the community of Newtown, Connecticut and especially to the families who lost loved ones on Friday. Our hearts are broken for you and we share in your immeasurable grief.
Next, I’d like to take a moment to thank all of the incredible men and women who serve our children as teachers, administrators and staff in schools across our country. We’re lucky enough here at Education.com to see you on our site each day and to be inspired by your creativity, energy and hard work. But we sometimes lose sight of the fact that you are in fact heroes in the lives of our children. Thank you for all that you do.
Finally, I’d like to share some resources that I’ve found helpful in thinking through how I will talk to my children about this tragedy and how I will help them answer the impossible questions I’m grappling with myself. I hope these articles help you as well and I’d love for us to use this post as a forum to share other resources that might be helpful to our Education.com community.
Helping Children Feel Safe in Unsafe Times, NYU Child Study Center:
Media Exposure and Tragic Events, NYU Child Study Center:
10 Ways to Talk to Kids About Events in the News:
NEA Teacher Thank You Card (lets you design and email a thank you card to the teachers in your life):
Connecticut Elementary School Shooting: How To Help (a list of organizations participating in the relief effort for the families and community of Newtown):
Learning about these resources has helped ease my sense of helplessness a bit and I hope they do the same for you. But mostly what I’ll be doing in the days and weeks to come is hugging my kids just a little longer, dancing with them just a little more, and counting myself lucky each and every time.
This month, we’re introducing Education.com’s first ever physical product: Wonder Box. It feels great to get our baby out into the world, after keeping it a secret for so long!
We’ve got thousands of free, hands-on activities on the site. So you may be asking yourself, why Wonder Box?
Well let’s face it: it’s an increasingly hectic world. The average mom spends over 21.2 hours in the car each week, just doing errands. The idea behind Wonder Box is to let parents focus on creating the magic moments we all crave with our kids. The experts behind Education.com package up a box each month, filled with creative crafts, science projects, and other activities– and each month it arrives at your doorstep. All you have to do is dig in!
Underneath all the fun, the projects in the box lay the groundwork for kindergarten. This month’s box (spoiler alert!) is packed with activities in the theme “Once Upon a Time”. To kids, it’s a box full of crafts and games, including a story cape (handmade in California!), a build-a-puppet kit, and a metal tin of colorful story cards. But as your family plays, imagines, and explores those fun goodies, you’ll really be tackling the very important theme of reading readiness– a core skill for kindergarten. (Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with us!)
Aside from the three main activities themselves, each Wonder Box comes with some extra treats like a recipe in the month’s theme, or a Fun Pack for kids to work on independently while you’re making a phone call or getting dinner ready. This month, we have our version of the timeless fable Stone Soup with an activity book to color and a recipe to make it at home (all you need is a stone…really!).
Want to learn more? Check out Wonder Box by going here. We’re excited to share, and please let us know what you think!
After months of thinking about it, it’s finally over. We came, we saw, we got drenched in Gatorade and loaded up with all sorts of goodies. But swag aside (and there was lots of it), my favorite moments at BlogHer had to do with the people I met– sometimes just for a few seconds (speed dating!), other times over a long lunch.
Before I left for BlogHer ’11, I made myself a rule: always sit down next to people you don’t know. So first off, thanks to all the ladies who let this stranger plunk herself down at your tables. Loved talking to all of you- but here are a few of my favorite moments:
Speed dating! What an amazing way to meet a chunk of interesting people, one after another. Loved quick introductions to Sarah of Tech4Moms- a woman who truly knows how to translate tech-speak into mom-speak; the crafty Carolina of Moore Craft Time — I want her fabric notebooks for back to school; Tech Savvy Mama Leticia (Holy cow! Just checked out her blog and I feel like a total slacker–how can one person do so many jobs at once?!); Kate (whose Adventures in Parenting blog inspires me to be a better mom); and Mandy Gresh of My Six Months Off, who like me, took a big break from normal life and stepped off the treadmill for awhile.
Loved bonding over super-active 2 1/2 year olds at the Sallie Mae Saving for College breakfast with Jennifer of Mami2Mommy.
Such fun to watch my friend, TechMama Beth Blecherman, run a session on all-things-gadget.
And thanks to Dollar Store Mom for doling out great advice and keeping it real as we grabbed a quick bite in between sessions.
Big (but low calorie) shout out to Ellen from Love that Max who made my heart sing when she said I gave her “the best parenting tip ever”. I just have one small bone to pick– the cheesecake yogurt is the best.
And thank you, thank you to Natalie Villalobos and Katherine Gramann for my first sips of Google+ Kool Aid. Now I believe.
Ready to give sleep training a whirl? Here’s a night-by-night gameplan, plus a detailed log of my own experience, so you know what to expect. May the sleep be with you!
The first night: Go in quickly– during the first five minutes of crying, and stay for under a minute. After that, if your baby keeps crying, go in every 5-25 minutes, at the height of baby’s cry. Repeat this process throughout the night. Do not feed your baby before midnight.
The second night: Stick to the plan above. If your baby ate at midnight last night, feed her again at midnight. If she lasted longer, for example, she nursed at 2 AM, do not feed her before that time.
The third night: Follow the same plan, but tonight, move the boundary for feeding by two hours. If your baby has been nursing for the past two nights at midnight, don’t feed her tonight before 2 AM. If she’s been nursing at 3 AM the past two nights, move the feeding to 5 AM.
The following nights: Every baby is different. Many will be sleeping through the night after three nights of this sleep program. For others, it can take two weeks or more. The most important thing is consistency. If you respond to your baby the same way each night, she’ll know the drill. Don’t start feeding her earlier than the boundary you set and don’t pick her up when she cries. Babies adjust quickly if the routine is consistent and they know what to expect.
A Week in the Life of a Sleep Trainer…
Knowing what to do in theory, and actually doing it are completely different things. I’ve just finished a full week of following Diamond and Cochran’s advice. Let me state for the record that I have a child who can cry for long spouts. I didn’t really expect this to work. Here’s the blow-by-blow of what’s happened so far:
Night #1: Went to bed at 7 PM. Woke up crying at 9 PM, so I knew she wasn’t hungry. I put the pacifier in her mouth (bad mommy!) and walked out of the room. She cried even harder. I waited five minutes and the crying lessened, so I didn’t go back in. She eventually fell asleep and didn’t wake up again until 3:45 AM, at which point I fed her. She slept until 6:30 AM.
Night #2: Went to bed at 7 PM. Woke up crying at 12 AM. It took three rounds of going in and patting her, with her crying harder each time. I was tempted to feed her, but I resisted, since she’d gone until 3:45 AM the night before. Instead, I went in for each round at the height of the cry, stayed less than a minute each time, and prepared myself for a very long night. But after the third time, the crying lessened and she fell asleep. She woke up again at 5:15 AM and I fed her. It was starting to get light out, so I didn’t think she’d fall asleep again, but she did. She woke up again at 7:30 AM.
Night #3: She slept through until 3:15 AM. I wasn’t sure what to do, since she’d gone longer without eating the night before, so I fed her. She slept until 6 AM.
Night #4: She slept from 7 PM-5:30 AM without eating! I fed her just as it was growing light out, and she slept until 7:30.
Night #5: My worst night I think. Now that I’m used to the fact that she can sleep until 5-ish, I was really disheartened when she woke up at 3:15. I went in over and over again, determined not to feed her. After an hour and a half, of visits according to the “official” rules, my husband was pushing me to feed her, and I was in crisis in my room. She was still wailing. Just as I was about to break down, the crying stopped and she went to sleep. I don’t know if I can do this…
Night #6: She cried at midnight and I went in to help her get off her belly. She went back to sleep. She woke up again at 4 AM and I wasn’t sure if I should feed her, since other than the freak night when she slept until 5:30, my official threshold was more like 3:30 or 4, so I fed her. She slept until 6:15.
Night #7: Whoohoo! I think I’m in the home stretch. My daughter slept from 6:45 PM until 5:30 AM without waking once. I fed her and she slept until 7:30. Sleep, glorious sleep!
So there it is, my sleep saga, explained. It was quick and not too painful. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, I say, do it! Who knows, you might be sleeping more than two hours at a time in a week, too…
For exhausted parents everywhere, babies can be divided into two categories: sleepers and non-sleepers. After 8 months of waking up at all hours of the night, one thing was abundantly clear to me: I did not, by any stretch of the imagination, have a sleeper. Working at Education.com, I have some of the best experts in the world willing to take my phone calls. So I decided to bring in the big guns, two gurus who make a living teaching parents like me how to get a baby to sleep through the night. I’m a few days in now, and incredibly enough, it’s working.
First, some background. I met my sleep gurus, Noelle Cochran, PsyD and Lele Diamond, MFT, both specialists in infant and toddler mental health and child development, because I was writing a story on preschoolers and kindergarteners who refuse to stay in bed. They run a Bay Area practice called Symbio but parents from across the country come to them for help… especially with sleep.
When I decided I was done waking up multiple times per night, I knew they were the ones to go to for advice. What I didn’t know, was how fast things could change. In just a few days, my baby went from waking up 4-5 times a night, to sleeping from 7 PM- 5:15 AM. I haven’t had this much sleep since George W. Bush was President…
What they advised me to do to get my baby to sleep worked so quickly, and so dramatically, that it would be just plain mean not to share. Here, with their blessing, is exactly what they told me:
The 10 Things You Need to Know to Get a Baby to Sleep Though the Night
- Understand why what you’re doing is important. Listening to your baby cry is incredibly difficult for most parents. Cochran and Diamond emphasize, though, that the process of training a baby to sleep through the night isn’t a selfish endeavor. True, many parents try it because they’re plum exhausted. But what’s really going on is a passing of the torch. “It’s a transition between you soothing her by picking her up and her learning how to soothe herself.” Cochran says.
- Lay the groundwork for success. Decide on a date to start and mark it on the calendar so you’ll commit to it. If you’re doing this with a partner decide in advance who will go in to baby in the middle of the night. Plan things out ahead of time, so you’re not trying to decide what to do at 3 AM, when you’re exhausted.
- Close the kitchen and choose a sleep threshold. If your child is older than 6 months and you’re still feeding her multiple times per night, it’s time to close the kitchen. “Yes” Diamond says, “She will be hungry for a night or two, but her body will adjust and she’ll learn to get more of her calories during the day.” Cochran and Diamond don’t recommend going cold turkey. Instead, they recommend phasing out the feedings. “Pick a time in the middle of the night, for example, midnight, and commit to the fact that before midnight you will not feed you’re your child when she cries,” Diamond says, “Then every two or three nights, move the boundary back by two hours.” For example, move it to 2 AM, then 4 AM, then 6 AM. “If you pull a feeding,” she says, “Your child is going to be hungry, but you need to distinguish between a physical need and a habitual need.”
- Go in based on the cry, not based on the clock. Most sleep training books advocate going in to your child at timed intervals, such as every five minutes, then extending those intervals gradually. Cochran and Diamond say to ignore the clock and focus on the cry. “On the first night, at the first cry, go in within the first five minutes, so your baby knows you hear her,” Cochran says. After that, and forever more, go in somewhere between 5-25 minutes, right at the height of the baby’s cry. Before you open the door to the nursery, listen to the quality of cry—if it’s deescalating or starting and stopping, your baby is starting to self-soothe. Don’t go in unless the cry starts to work up again.
- Don’t stay too long. The ideal length of time is between two seconds and one minute. Never stay longer than a minute.
- Eliminate the pacifier. Sometime between four and six months, the physical need for sucking goes away. If your baby is older than that and still using a pacifier, the challenge is getting to the point where she doesn’t need you to help. “If she can find the pacifier and put it in her own mouth, I’m okay with it,” Cochran says, “But it’s not okay for you to have to come in during the night to put it in for her.” Start working on putting it in her hand for her, rather than in her mouth. And have a plan for phasing it out completely. They don’t recommend doing that at the same time as the rest of the sleep training, though! One thing at a time.
- Don’t expect to calm baby down. When a parent goes in to the room, they’re often hoping that going in will soothe their child, Diamond says. But it’s important to have realistic expectations. Not only will you likely not make your baby stop crying, but the crying is likely to jack up, not lessen, since you’re refusing to do what your baby wants, which is to pick her up or feed her. The point of going in is to say “I get it, you’re upset, but I know you’re okay. Nothing has gone wrong. It’s not that I don’t hear you. But I know you can do this and I’m here to support you.” Parents often say, “This doesn’t help—I made it worse by going in.” What they need to understand is that going in is not meant to soothe the baby, just to reassure her.
- Know there’s no tough love required. Although the sleep books often warn parents not to talk to their child or make eye contact, Cochran and Diamond disagree. “You can look at them, talk to them, say you love them, “Diamond says, “Eye contact is okay. Patting is okay. Some kids hate to be touched or talked to, so know your kid tempermentally”, but if you think it will help, feel free to do it, as long as you don’t pick them up. As for going in the room, you can phase out these visits whenever feels good to you, Cochran says.
- Set a clear boundary and stick to it. When a baby cries, she’s signaling you. There’s a contest going on. Your baby is saying, “I’ll cry to make you do what I want you to do,” Diamond says. And when you start sleep training, you’re changing all the rules. That’s why it’s important to keep what you do consistent, so she knows what to expect. “Picking her up sometimes but not others, or rocking her to sleep when you’re at your wits end, but not at other times, isn’t fair to her and it actually makes things harder on her,” Diamond says. Once she knows, “Okay, I can get you to visit me, but I won’t get rocked or nursed to sleep,” she can learn how to soothe herself.
Want to know the step-by-step gameplan? Tune in tomorrow for details, plus the nitty-gritty of one parent’s night-by-night experience.