Thursday, September 27, 2012

Social Skills: Getting out and about

We've been focusing on social skills the past two weeks. Most young children get their best practice at home with friends and playgroups and at school. But it's also great to get out and about to mix and mingle with other children. Here are the hot spots in our area:

Parks! Dragon Park in Nashville and Crockett Park in Brentwood have awesome play structures and are usually teeming with youngsters. Want to really promote interaction? Take a ball. Inevitably it will roll away and some other kid will go after it.

Play gyms! Several have popped up around town, but one of the favorites is in Cool Springs. Let the kids roam while you sit back and relax.

Your gym! One of our personal favorites for is the YMCA. Members have access to age-appropriate childcare rooms while they are in the building. 

Parent's Night Out! Childcare can be a fun way for kids to socialize while you grab groceries, have lunch with friends, or slip out for a date-night dinner. Two excellent drop-in spots are with locations in Belle Meade and Brentwood and in Green Hills. In addition to these drop-ins, area churches and gyms, such as Let it Shine gymnastics in Franklin, have regularly-scheduled parent night out programs. These typically require advance reservations.

Have other places you like? Please share!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Child Language: Talking about talking

Photo by Kristen Vanzant

Child Language is the field of study concerned with the typical and atypical patterns of development of oral and written communication in childhood. 

Don’t most kids just learn to talk? Why yes, most do eventually, but not everyone is equally articulate. In our American culture, verbal intelligence is the most prized of the intelligences. Our general education system is built on an assumption that all students are linguistically strong, and today those who struggle with oral language are at risk for failure.

Forty years ago, when child language disorders were becoming recognized, some researchers argued that there was no such disorder, but rather that some children are relatively less adept than others, much like some children learn to ride a bike easily while others struggle. Through years of research, some of these same minds later identified specific deviancies in the language skills of a subset of children who were not only acquiring language slowly (late-talking) but also using patterns of speech and grammar that were not part of the normal sequence of development.

Today, children who exhibit these features may be appropriately diagnosed with a language disorder or language-based learning disability. Current estimates indicate that 7% of children have a language disorder that is not explained by any other neurological, developmental, or physical issue (for more stats on prevalence and incidence, visit the American Speech Language Hearing Association website at Left untreated, these children are at an increased risk for academic and social disadvantages; such are the consequences of not being highly verbal in our highly verbal society.

Fortunately, major advances in the understanding of child language development and disorders now enable specialized speech-language pathologists to successfully implement empirically-proven early identification, assessment, and intervention procedures. With an understanding of the differences between typical development and atypical development, child language professionals are uniquely suited to determine who needs help, when to provide it, and what to do.

For these children, having experts “talking about their talking” is the first step on the path to a brighter future.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Social Milestones

As a parent, I am always wanting to make sure my child is "on track."

Are they saying the right amount of words they are supposed to say at this age?

Are they making friends?

Can they follow one or two step directions?

Is their fine motor where it should be?

When are they supposed to be potty training?

Are they supposed to be writing their name or reading on their own at 4?

Whew! You can really wear yourself thinking about all the developmental milestones for your kids, but it doesn't do us any good to worry so much does it?

All we can do is equip ourselves with the knowledge we need to raise our kids and just do the best we can do.  

So this is where Hands on Mom comes in..and we are pretty savvy in this department if we do say so ourselves, not only as moms but also as professionals in elementary education and speech, language and literacy development.

Heather is not only a wonderful mom, but a child language expert with a thriving private practice.

I on the other hand have experience in the classroom, specifically in Pre-K through 4th grade. I understand what teachers expect children should do starting as early as 3 years old to higher elementary school age kids. The importance of social development in the child's academic success. I am also a parent to two girls, age two and five. So I have a lot of hands on learning experience to share.

The following are social milestones we feel that are important starting at age 3, when your child is probably getting ready to start a day school or Mommy's Day out program.

Starting with the 3s, here are some Social and Emotional Development milestones you can expect:

  • follows simple directions; enjoys helping with household tasks
  • begins to recognize own limits — asks for help from adults as a problem-solving strategy
  • likes to play alone, but near other children
  • reaches out to play with other children by watching them or copying their play
  • starts using words when she wants something from someone, as opposed to the two-year old "grab and run" technique
  • does not always cooperate or share well
  • is able to make choices between two things
  • begins to notice other people's moods and feelings
  • initiates self-centered conversations with adults and other children ("You know what I did? I...")
  • becomes generally more talkative as language skills dramatically increase (longer utterances, larger vocabulary, and clearer pronunciation) at this developmental stage


        Watching your child progress from the terrible 2s to the thriving 3s can be really gratifying. Many parents express that they begin to enjoy their child's company in a new way once social-emotional development hits these new milestones. 
        Concerned? Talk with your child's teacher, reach out to us, or bring it up at your next doctor's appointment. The good news about three year-olds is that you have a couple of years to start working out the kinks before kindergarten.

      Friday, September 21, 2012

      Happy Friday!

      Amy Croker, MAT Elem. Education
      Remember to nuture those friendships and the relationship you have with your spouse and kids.

      Try not to lose yourself in parenthood or the race to try to keep up with all these super moms.

      Remember to live in the moments, and quit trying to be someone you're not. Give yourself a break!

      Surround yourself with people that love you, support you and who you can be real with because...

      “At the end of your life you will never regret not having passed one more test, not wining one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child or a parent.”
      Barbara Bush, Reflections: Life After the White House

      Thursday, September 20, 2012

      The Health Benefits of Having Friends and How to Nurture Your Friendships

      Amy Croker, MAT, Elem. Education
      I could not have said this better myself. A great affirmation to my post yesterday.

      Please take time to read it and then go nuture those friendships! It is important to your health and well-being!

      Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health

      Friendships can be good for you. Find out about the connection between your health and friendship, and how to promote and maintain healthy friendships.

      By Mayo Clinic staff
      Friendships can have a major impact on your health and well-being, but it's not always easy to build or maintain friendships. Understand the importance of friendships in your life and what you can do to develop and nurture friendships.

      What are the benefits of friendships?

      Good friends are good for your health. Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too. Friends can also:
      • Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
      • Boost your happiness
      • Reduce stress
      • Improve your self-worth
      • Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
      • Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise

      Why is it sometimes hard to make friends or maintain friendships?

      Many adults find it hard to develop new friendships or keep up existing friendships. Friendships may take a back seat to other priorities, such as work or caring for children or aging parents. You and your friends may have grown apart due to changes in your lives or interests. Or maybe you've moved to a new community and haven't yet found a way to meet people. Developing and maintaining good friendships takes effort. The enjoyment and comfort friendship can provide, however, makes the investment worthwhile.

      What's a healthy number of friends?

      There's no need to aim for a specific number of friends. Some people benefit from a large and diverse network of friends, while others prefer a smaller circle of friends and acquaintances. There are also different types of friendship. You may have a few close friends you turn to for deeply personal conversations, and more casual friends with whom you see movies, play basketball or share backyard cookouts. Consider what works for you. Overall, the quality of your relationships is more important than the specific number of friends you have.

      Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health

      What are some ways to meet new people?

      You can take steps to meet people and develop friendships. For example:
      • Take your child — or pet — for a walk. Chat with neighbors who are also out and about or head to a popular park and strike up conversations there.
      • Work out. Take a class at a local gym, senior center or community fitness facility. Start a lunchtime walking group at work.
      • Do lunch. Invite an acquaintance to join you for coffee or a meal.
      • Accept invites. When you're invited to a social gathering, say yes. Contact someone who recently invited you to an activity and return the favor.
      • Volunteer. Offer your time or talents at a hospital, place of worship, museum, community center, charitable group or other organization. You can form strong connections when you work with people who have mutual interests.
      • Attend community events. Get together with a group of people working toward a goal you believe in, such as an election or the cleanup of a natural area. Find a group with similar interests in an activity, such as auto racing, gardening, reading or making crafts.
      • Go to school. Take a college or community education course to meet people who have similar interests.
      • Join a faith community. Take advantage of special activities and get-to-know-you events for new members.
      Above all, stay positive. You may not become friends with everyone you meet, but maintaining a friendly attitude and demeanor can help you improve the relationships in your life and sow the seeds of friendship with new acquaintances.

      How does social media affect friendships?

      Joining a chat group or online community might help you make or maintain connections and relieve loneliness. However, research suggests that use of social networking sites doesn't necessarily translate to a larger offline network or closer offline relationships with network members. In addition, remember to exercise caution when sharing personal information or arranging an activity with someone you've only met online.

      How can I nurture my friendships?

      Developing and maintaining healthy friendships involves give-and-take. Sometimes you're the one giving support, and other times you're on the receiving end. Letting friends know you care about them and appreciate them can help strengthen your bond. It's as important for you to be a good friend as it is to surround yourself with good friends.
      To nurture your friendships:
      • Go easy. Don't overwhelm friends with phone calls, texts, instant messages or emails. Respect your friends' boundaries.
      • Don't compete. Don't let friendships turn into a battle over who makes the most money or who has the nicest home.
      • Adopt a healthy, realistic self-image. Work on building your self-esteem by taking care of yourself — eat a healthy diet and include physical activity in your daily routine. Vanity and constant self-criticism can be turnoffs to potential friends.
      • Avoid relentless complaining. Nonstop complaining can put a strain on your friendships. Talk to your friends about how you can change the parts of your life that make you unhappy.
      • Adopt a positive outlook. Try to find the humor in things. Laughter is infectious and appealing.
      • Listen up. Ask what's going on in your friends' lives. Avoid talking about your own problems all the time. Try to only give advice when your friends ask for it.
      • Don't judge. Give your friends space to change, grow and make mistakes. Encourage your friends to freely express their emotions.
      • Respect privacy. Keep confidential any personal information that your friends share with you. Try not to ask questions that make your friends uncomfortable.
      Remember, it's never too late to build new friendships or reconnect with old friends. Investing time in making friends and strengthening your friendships can pay off in better health and a brighter outlook for years to come.

      Article from:

      Wednesday, September 19, 2012

      You've got a friend in me...

      Amy Croker, MAT, Elem. Education

      Do you ever wonder why it seems to be so easy for kids to make friends and then as moms, we tend to have a wall up?

      Kids are living in the moment, where we as parents are so preoccupied with your to-do lists or what errands we need to run, that we forget about stopping, and taking the time to connect with other moms.

      Maybe I am talking too much about myself here or maybe there are some of you moms out there that can relate?

      I run into so many moms outside of my daughters' day school, either at the grocery store, the Y, the park or even at a favorite local restaurant. We have a nice conversation, talk about our kids, our day or weekend and then off we go!

      As moms especially, we are rush, rush, rush, going from point A to B or are too busy to really get to know the another person.

      Instead, we prejudge them, compare ourselves to them without really getting to know them or just assume that you don't really have much in common with them.

      After living in Nashville for almost 6 years now, I finally feel like I can call it "home," but it has taken me that long!

      For a while, I was not happy with my husband moving me to a town where everybody already had their circle of friends they went to school with at UT or went to church with back in the day. It was like moving back to middle school or high school where "clicks" and "mean girls" were invented.

      Now, before you judge me or get mad at me, I am not trying to talk bad about Nashville and the people that live in Nashville. It was just the phase I was in when I moved here. At the time, moving to a new city and being pregnant was not easy for me, but i did survive and made it through all because of a lot of you sweet southern ladies that I have grown to adore. You know who you are! I truly could not have made it through all the ups and downs without you!

      Friends, old and new, have been such a blessing to me in more ways than I can even count. Friends allow you to vent, destress, have playdates with, do adult dinner night out with or even a short weekend getaway. What would we do without our friends!

      We need them in good times and bad. So along with trying to find yourself again or trying to not lose yourself in parenthood (, make sure you cherish your friendships. Don't just assume something about a person before you get to know them. Hey! They might be a new kid (or mommy) on the block and would love to have someone to pal around with.

      Just look at your child's face when they see a friend they know at the park or when they walk into their classroom and see their best bud. They light up and all of sudden that meltdown in the car or before you left the house is gone, or their butterflies on the first day of school disappear, all because of the friends they have and then the friends they will soon get to make.

      So be role model for your child. Encourage playdates with kids their age, meet their moms for coffee or at the park, and try to let your guard down. Live in the moment!

      Monday, September 17, 2012

      You know you have lost yourself when...

      Amy Croker, MAT Elem. Education
      Quiz number seven in the book, I was a really good mom before I had kids, really hit home with me tonight.  It says, “You know you have lost yourself completely when…check all that applies:

      o   You introduce yourself at an important business meeting as “Andrea’s mom.”

      o   You can’t remember the last time you showered without two (or more) eyes on you.

      o   It’s normal to leave the house with Barbie stickers plastered to your thigh.

      o   You think watching the Oscars on TV is a real night out.

      o   You reflexively refer to the bathroom as “the potty.”

      o   You get competitive about winning Chutes and Ladders

      o   You ask your children questions like “Do these jeans make my butt look big?”

      o   You find yourself rescuing a tiny LEGO man from a poopy toilet.

      o   You drink from a Sippy cup in public.

      o   You catch yourself humming a Raffi song under your breath.

      I think I probably checked the majority of those boxes and could probably add more such as …
      o   Your Target brand yoga pants, tank top and New Balance tennis shoes are your daily uniform

      o   When your child looks shocked when you have not put your hair back in a headband and actually fixed it and put on make-up.

      o   When you start talking to yourself in the car or find yourself listening to stories on cd without realizing it until you are almost home.

      o   When you cannot reach into your purse without pulling out a wipe, diaper or stale Goldfish

      o   When you feel like you are on vacation when you get to take a trip to Target all by your little self.

      o   When Peanut Butter, Goldfish, dried fruit and granola bars start to be your main source of nutrition.

      Well I don’t know about you moms and dads out there, but I have been feeling a little lost lately. I feel like I have lost myself, forgotten who I was (if I ever really knew) and feel like every day, I am just getting by. Trying to survive being a parent of two lovely, very energetic girls.
      Because I am a stay at home mom, I put so much pressure on myself to be this super mom. To be the mom my mom was to me, which I thought was pretty perfect. To be the best wife, the best friend and daughter.
      And that is where I am right now. I always thought I wanted to just be a mom. To get married and have kids. To be Suzy Homemaker, to be Martha Stewart (well, minus the jail part), and be this person that just makes being a mom look easy. One that always volunteers, does crafts, bakes, organizes playdates, meets for lunch dates, keeps a perfectly clean house, looks put together and fit on most days, and just always feels fulfilled in where her life is.
      So once I got my hard head out of "La-La Land," I realized there is no Suzy Homemaker, Supermom or Martha Stewart and I am sure you are all thinking right now, really? She just figured that out?

      Well, not really, but I did finally start to take the pressure and high expectations off myself, stopped comparing myself to friends around me that seem to have it all together, the happy marriage, perfectly dressed and well-behaved kids, successful careers, etc.  Where I am still trying to figure this whole parent thing out and wondering what the heck I want to be when I grow up.

      I think it is so important as parents that we make sure that we don't lose ourselves in the parenting world. That we stop comparing ourselves or judging others and live our life.  Live in the moments! Even if your moment right now is being a mom that lives in yoga pants and headbands and never seems to have a moment to herself.

      Don't get me wrong, I love my girls with all my heart and thank God every day for them. I love getting to experience their firsts,their first time they took their first steps, said their first word or their first day of school. I love loving on them and giving them a kiss to magically make their boo-boos go away. I love how it feels when you hear them say, "I love you," or say "Mommy" the first time. I love those tiny little hands that fit in the palm of your hand so perfectly. There is just nothing better than being a parent and watching your kids grow and learn. It is the best job title I have ever had, but also the hardest.

      It is hard for some of us to have to put our careers on hold, or to not be able to do the things we used to be able to do before we had kids like:  go on adult only vacations, spontaneous weekend getaways or even just being able to sleep in on a Saturday morning.

      As parents I believe that it is important that we make sure we take care of ourselves and not lose ourselves in the rat race of who is the best mom, who has the best clothes or seems to have it all together.

      Everyone is in this parenting thing together.  So if you are feeling lost like I am right now, try to find yourself again. Plan monthly date nights with your hubs and/or grab friends that let you be your true self, that bring out the best in you and that will support you in parenting and in life. We all need a good support system to let us vent and be the real us with our bed head and princess stickers plastered to our bottoms and all! 

      Next week, we will be talking about the importance of friends not only for you but for your children.


      Tuesday, September 4, 2012

      A must-try Healthy After School Snack

      We will definitely be trying this healthy after school snack we found on today. Also, what a fun appetizer for football watching parties! Yum! Let us know what you and your fam think of the recipe.

      Pita Nachos

      A healthier version of a favorite Mexican treat, these pita nachos are easy to throw together