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What Size Shoes Does a 1 Year Old Typically Wear? Things to Know

What Size Shoes Does a 1 Year Old Typically Wear? Things to Know

The 1-year-old stage is an exciting time. Most little ones start to take their first steps shortly after turning 1 (some earlier, some later) and they are ready for their first pair of shoes! Making sure those first pair of walking shoes are the right 

A Good Natural and Eco-Conscious Bubble Bath for Kids

A Good Natural and Eco-Conscious Bubble Bath for Kids

A good bubble bath is such a quintessential childhood experience! However, itchy irritated skin from harsh chemicals in bubble bath products should not be part of the experience. My toddler has eczema and my preschooler has very dry skin, so I do not want to 

Homemade Unsweetened Applesauce with Vegetables Recipe

Homemade Unsweetened Applesauce with Vegetables Recipe

This applesauce with vegetables recipe has no added sugar and chances are your kids will love it! Even my vegetable averse 4-year-old gobbles up this apple sauce as a wholesome snack or side dish. 

This recipe is simple and requires just a few nutritious ingredients;

  • apples
  • a vegetable like carrot, sweet potato, or celery
  • cinnamon
  • lemon juice
  • pure vanilla extract
  • water

You will also need a stovetop, a small saucepan, and a stirring spoon.

hidden veggies recipe ingredients

I love this recipe for a few reasons;

  • No added sugar
  • Vegetable options depending on what you have in your fridge
  • Easy to prep
  • Wholesome snack or side dish for even the pickiest eater

Vegetable Options

I have tried the following vegetables in this hidden veggies recipe;

  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potato

All have worked well and are kid-approved by my preschooler and 1 year old!

I have also tried zucchini and bell pepper, but I do NOT recommend using either of these vegetables in this recipe! They both overpowered the apples, creating a strange and unappetizing flavor.

The carrot applesauce version is currently my 4 year old’s favorite. Historically, he has also loved the celery option and even a yellow squash version.

Baby-Friendly Veggie Applesauce Option

If you are making this applesauce for your baby or young toddler, just make sure the pieces are chopped into small pieces and that you have cooked everything until the apples and veggies are easily mashable.

I also peel the apples before throwing them in the pan if my 1-year-old will be eating it. For my 4 year old I just leave the apple skins on for added nutritional value. 

You can also throw the apples and veggies in a food processor or use an immersion blender after cooking to make a puree.

You could even throw the puree into some reusable pouches to have a delicious on-the-go treat for your little one. Or, if you like to batch cook, fill some silicone ice cube trays with a cover with your puree and store them in the freezer. 

Naturally Sweet Comfort Food

Making your own applesauce is so satisfying and it’s one of the best comfort foods.

The apples serve as a natural sweetener in this recipe. Carrots are a natural sweetener as well and cinnamon enhances the natural sweet flavor of foods.

vegetable applesauce with no added sugar

And to make homemade applesauce with veggies even more tasty, the combination of pure vanilla extract and lemon juice brings out all the sweet and tangy apple flavors.

I was making very plain applesauce with just apples, a veggie, and cinnamon for a while, but once I tried it with lemon juice and vanilla extract I never left them out again.

What are the Best Apples for Applesauce without Sugar?

I like Honeycrisp apples mixed with Fuji apples for homemade applesauce. Honeycrisp apples are tangy and sweet, and Fujis have a sweet mellow flavor.

Allrecipe recommends using both tart and sweet apples in combination for the best homemade applesauces. 

It’s important to use at least some sweet apples (like Fujis and Galas) verses only tart ones (like granny smith apples) in this recipe though, since there is no added sugar.

Toddler Cooking Activity

This is a great recipe to have your kids get involved and learn some food prep skills.

My 4-year-old uses his serrated blunt kid-friendly knives to help chop apples and vegetables.

applesauce with vegetables recipe

Applesauce with Vegetables

Simple wholesome ingredients for a baby-friendly, toddler-friendly, & kid-friendly snack or side dish. This veggie applesauce has no added sugar!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Side Dish
Servings 3

Equipment

  • 1 saucepan
  • 1 stirring spoon
  • 1 Knife
  • 1 peeler

Ingredients
  

  • 1 medium-large apple amounts to about 1 cup of diced apples
  • 1 medium-large carrot amounts to about 1 cup of diced carrots. Or, use a small-medium sized sweet potato or 2 stocks of celery
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Instructions
 

  • Peel the skin from your apples (feel free to leave the skin on for added nutritional value. You can experiment to see if your child is more likely to eat applesauce with or without apple skins. I peel apples if making this recipe for my baby to prevent choking risks).
  • Peel the skin from your vegetable if using sweet potato or carrot.
  • Dice or cube your apples.
  • Dice your vegetable (mince them if you want to really disguise them in the applesauce for picky eaters. You can also mash your applesauce after it is done cooking to mix the apples in with the veggies).
  • Put 1/2 cup of water in your saucepan on medium heat to bring to a simmer.
  • Reduce heat to low to medium and add your veggies.
  • Simmer with the lid on your saucepan until they are just starting to get tender (usually less than 5 minutes).
  • Add your apples, cinnamon, vanilla, and lemon juice to the veggies.
  • Let everything simmer for about 10 more minutes (or until the apples and veggies are nice and soft. The water should have turned into a cinnamon-colored gooey consistency around the diced apples and vegetables).
  • If you want to hide the veggies really well, lightly mash everything once it is all cooked.
  • Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy while still warm.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Keyword applesauce with no added sugar, applesauce with vegetables, hidden vegetable recipe, unsweetened applesauce
How to Make Your Own Affordable Quality Breast Milk Jewelry

How to Make Your Own Affordable Quality Breast Milk Jewelry

When I first heard about breast milk jewelry, I scoffed at the idea. Why would anyone care about preserving their breastmilk in a weird piece of jewelry? Fast forward a few months to when I started making plans to wean my baby, and I found 

How to Know When You Are Truly Ready to Stop Breastfeeding?

How to Know When You Are Truly Ready to Stop Breastfeeding?

Many moms have a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding. There’s nothing quite like nourishing your child from your own body, and it marks a finite period in a woman’s life as a mother. It is also a test of endurance. Many breastfeeding moms (this includes both 

Does it Take a Village to Raise a Child? Parenting Today

Does it Take a Village to Raise a Child? Parenting Today

All parents need some type of support network when raising young children. What this support network looks like though, can vary. Different parents need varying levels and sources of support depending on the following;

  • their personalities
  • their mental health and physical health
  • their financial statuses and work situations

For example, some need a strong emotional support system, while others need support in the form of childcare due to a full-time job. 

So does it take a village to raise a child? Yes; but, that village can and does look very different from family to family.

When many parents hear the ancient African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child”, they often think of a village as a large circle of close and trusted friends and extended family members.  

There are many parents, however, who do not have a large circle of close friends and family. At least not locally. Living hundreds or even thousands of miles away from extended family is common in the United States for many nuclear families. 

As a result, many parents are left feeling like they are missing out on the so called village that they are supposed to have. These parents may feel isolated and also worried that their children are missing out on important social connections and a sense of community.

I understand this sentiment. My husband and I have moved states twice since my first child was born. We are far away from our extended families and struggle to schedule in time with friends.

Now with a new baby, we spend much of our time feeling like we are in survival mode. We haven’t slept through a night in over a year and young children have insane amounts of energy as it turns out. So, we are tired.

Your Village Can Look Different From Another Family’s Village

Despite feeling like I do not have a parenting village at times, I am starting to realize that maybe I do have the beginnings of a small village. It just does not look like the stereotypical whole village with constant contact with close friends and family I always assumed it would look like. 

In a Front Public Health research article, the authors explain that a child’s village members are those who “share responsibility” in raising a child. This could be anyone from parents to extended family to friends to neighbors to members of the wider community. 

So while not all parents have local grandparents they can call for childcare backup, they may have neighbors or members in their communities who have a positive impact on the development of a child on some level, however small. 

For example, my 4 year old attends an amazing preschool with three wonderful teachers. I know that they have a significant role in his life and are taking a piece of responsibility in his social, cognitive, and emotional development. My son also takes gymnastics classes and loves his gym teachers. They too, in a small way are sharing some of the responsibility with me in raising him and helping create a healthy environment for him.

Any organized activity we expose our children to is a potential place to find village members and community support. Of course those village members probably aren’t going to end up being people we can call on for childcare backup, but they still play a part in a family’s sense of community. 

Who Can be Members of Your Village?

As discussed, village members do not exclusively have to be close friends and family. Village members can also be people you have a connection with like your neighbors or even your local librarian. Having a local trusted friend or two is certainly something to strive for, but you can’t discount the village members that are part of your wider community.

Having the mindset that I am surrounded by potential village members makes me feel like I’m not a mom without a village. It empowers me to create my own village and recognize that there is an entire community of healthy adults out there for me and my family to connect with.

I am learning to see anyone who I form a repeated and positive connection with as a potential village member. This is a great approach to expose my children to at a young age, They will grow up feeling like they have access to an entire community of people. They will also become active members of the community themselves this way and learn about the importance of community involvement. 

I also remind myself that even long-distance friends and family are still village members. Reaching out virtually on a regular basis is important in these cases.

Brainstorm Ways to Find Village Community Members

If you do not have local extended family or close friends, you have to get creative about forming your village. 

Here are some potential ways to find your village;

  • Seek out organized recurring activities for your kids
  • Join your city or town’s facebook group for local parents (I have found out about so many good resources from fellow moms by joining my local moms’ facebook group)
  • Check out the Peanut app (basically online dating for mom friends)
  • Be the first to say hi (be bold, be brave, and be a friend to make a friend)
  • Check out your local parks and local events
  • Do a google search for local family volunteer opportunities
  • Check out your local library and organized events and activities
  • Video chat with non-local friends and family (stay in touch through live virtual interaction, don’t just scroll through your social media feed)

Get Out There and Build Your Village

Build your village as slowly or as fast as you want. And make it feel right for you and your family. Do not compare your village to another family’s village or family life, because we are all living our own stories. As long as we are creating a safe space for our children and helping them form healthy connections, we are doing okay. 

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Easy Homemade Bubble Recipe with Glycerin for Giant Bubbles!

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Can You Take Emergen-C While Breastfeeding? Dosage Safety

Can You Take Emergen-C While Breastfeeding? Dosage Safety

During cold and flu season, busy breastfeeding moms may be asking, can you take Emergen C while breastfeeding? Anything that can potentially give a tired mom a leg up sounds like a pretty good idea, right?

A review of the available information and scientific literature online indicates that breastfeeding mamas can generally take vitamin C supplements like Emergen-C as directed.

As long as they are not overdoing their vitamin and mineral consumption with additional supplements, there do not seem to be any major health concerns for a mom or her breastfed infant.

Please note that while the information I share here is from health agencies, peer-reviewed scientific journals, and other reputable sources, I am not a medical professional. Any questions regarding your health concerns should be directed to your healthcare provider.

Take Home Points: Can You Take Emergen C While Breastfeeding?

1. Breastfeeding moms can generally take the nutritional supplement Emergen-C without cause for concern.

That is, as long as they are not taking additional supplements that put them over the ULs (tolerable upper limits established by the Institute of Medicine’s Dietary Reference Intakes Guide) for consumed vitamins and minerals. 

2. A breastfeeding mother who is taking supplements (Emergen C, prenatal vitamin, or postnatal vitamin, etc) should be familiar with dosage levels and combined dosage levels of all vitamin and mineral supplements.

See the table for ULs (upper tolerable limits) for the vitamins and minerals found in Emergen-C and a common postnatal supplement. 

3. Child Health and Human Development reviews studies showing that higher levels of vitamin C intake by lactating mothers leads to higher vitamin C levels in breastmilk. These higher levels (under 2000mg) of vitamin C in breast milk do not seem to pose any health risks for infants.

4. A meta-analysis in BMC Public Health concludes that regular high vitamin C intake (around 1000 mg) can lessen the severity of cold symptoms.

While vitamin C is the primary vitamin in Emergen C, there does not appear to be any scientific research on the effects of Emergen C itself as a product. Emergen C is also not regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). 

5. With no scientific evidence specifically on the benefits of Emergen-C products, breastfeeding moms may choose to focus instead on getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating a healthy diet to support their health and immune systems.  

That being said, breastfeeding moms may find it worth testing out Emergen C for themselves. Especially during cold and flu season.

At the end of the day, always talk with your trusted health professionals to discuss the specifics of what is right for you when it comes to taking supplements and breastfeeding.

What is Emergen-C Good For?

Emergen-C immune support is a dietary supplement that contains 1000 mg of vitamin C along with 15 other vitamins and minerals (note the Emergen C chewable tablet has a different nutrition profile than the powder packet). 

The flavored Emergen-C powder packets are marketed as a daily supplement to support immune health and give your body antioxidants, b vitamins, and electrolytes. 

If taking an Emergen C packet daily, you can expect to spend around $13/month. While not a huge expense, it’s worth weighing the potential benefits against the time and cost of taking Emergen C. Unless you are purely taking Emergen C for the taste of all those fun fizzy flavors, you probably want to know a little more about the product and its potential benefits or risks.

How Much Vitamin C do Lactating Mothers Need?

Vitamin C is not stored in the body or made by the body, so it must be consumed through foods or supplements.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states that the daily value of vitamin C for breastfeeding mothers is 120 mg. Most lactating women can get enough vitamin C from prenatal or postnatal vitamins along with a healthy diet. Breastfeeding moms are generally advised to take prenatal vitamins to keep themselves healthy as well as ensure that their bodies are making quality breastmilk. 

While people do not need to worry so much about taking too much vitamin C through foods, they do need to be mindful of vitamin C dosages in supplements. For example, the Emergen C packaging health claims state that there is the equivalent of 10 oranges worth of vitamin C in one daily dose of Emergen-C. It would be really hard to eat 10 oranges all at once, but pretty easy to down a packet of Emergen C.

The USDA database shows that 1 raw orange has 59.1 mg of vitamin C ascorbic acid, which is about half the recommended amount of vitamin C needed per day for breastfeeding moms. So it’s not too hard for moms to get their daily dose of vitamin C with a juicy orange and a prenatal vitamin. You can search the USDA nutrient database values (United States Department of Agriculture) for other foods and their vitamin and mineral content.

While the body does flush out excess vitamin C, too much all at once can lead to adverse effects like diarrhea, nausea, and headache. Losing a lot of fluids through diarrhea or fighting a splitting headache is the last thing a breastfeeding mom needs!

1. How Much Vitamin C Can Breastfeeding Moms Safely Take?

There is not much difference between how much vitamin C a non-lactating adult versus a breastfeeding mother can safely take. 

As far as research goes, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states that up to 1000 mg of vitamin C daily increases the vitamin C in milk levels, but is not a safety risk for nursing infants.

Likewise, breastfeeding expert and MD, Dr Anne Eglash states that it is safe to take 1000 mg/day of vitamin C while breastfeeding. She even comments that breastfeeding women can take up to 2 grams (2000 mg) of vitamin C.

As a side note, Dr Eglash also has a podcast, Breastfeeding Medicine Podcast, all about breastfeeding-related topics. It is worth checking out if you find yourself with questions about breastfeeding.

2000 mg/day of vitamin C is the UL (tolerable upper limit established by the Food and Nutrition Board) for lactating women. This is the same UL as for non-lactating adults.

To verify the above findings, I asked our trusty local pharmacist if I could take daily Emergen C while breastfeeding. Without hesitation, he confirmed I could. 

2. ULs (Tolerable Upper Limits) for Vitamin C and Other Vitamins and Minerals

While we all need our essential vitamins and minerals, too much of a good thing can negatively impact our health. 

Breastfeeding women will want to read the nutrition label and dosage levels of their pre or postnatal vitamins as well as any other supplements they are planning to take. They can then add up all the dosages and check them against the Food and Nutrition Board’s ULs (tolerable upper limits) for vitamins and minerals. 

The UL for vitamin C is 2000 mg/day for breastfeeding women aged 19-50 years old (the same for non-lactating adults).

The chart below shows the vitamin and mineral dosages for Emergen-C as well as for a common postnatal vitamin by Nature Made. The last column shows the UL for each noted vitamin and mineral.

Emergen CNature Made Postnatals Multi + DHAUL (Tolerable Upper Intake Levels) Lactating women 19-50 years old
Vitamin C1000 mg120 mg2000 mg/d
Thiamin.36 mg1.4 mgND (not determinable)
Riboflavin.39 mg1.6 mgND (Not Determinable)
Niacin4 mg17 mg35 mg/d
Vitamin B610 mg2 mg100 mg/d
Folate167 mcg DFE830 mcg DFE1000 microgram/d
Vitamin B1225 mcg5.8 mcgND (Not Determinable)
Pantothenic Acid2.5 mg7 mgND (Not Determinable)
Calcium50 mg150 mg2500 mg/d
Phosphorus38 mg
Magnesium53 mg45 mg350 mg/d
Zinc2 mg12 mg40 mg/d for 19+ years old and lactating
Manganese.5 mgnot included
Chromium10 mcgnot included
Sodium65 mgnot included
Potassium200 mgnot included

In good news, total dosages of noted vitamins and minerals in Emergen C and Nature Made’s Postnatal vitamins are under the Food and Nutrition Board’s ULs.

The Food and Nutrition Board does not set ULs for thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B 12, and pantothenic acid. They mark these as “ND” (not determinable). There is no data on the negative effects of these vitamins at high levels. 

The one vitamin that comes very close to the upper limit after combining Nature Made’s postnatal vitamin dosage with the Emergen C dosage is folate.

The folate in Emergen C (167 mcg) combined with the folate in the postnatal vitamin (830 mcg) equals a total of 997 mcg. This is 3 micrograms shy of the 1000 mcg/d tolerable upper limit. 

The CDC explains that the 1000 mcg/d upper limit for folate was established because excess folate can mask vitamin B12 deficiency and accompanying health problems.

Based on their data related to folic acid and vitamin B12, the Institute of Medicine set the LOAEL (lowest observed adverse effect level) at 5000 mcg/d for folic acid. This is 5 times higher than the established UL (tolerable upper limit) to prevent people from getting close to that LOAEL level.

After learning this, the idea of being right at the UL for folate if I were taking Emergen C and a postnatal vitamin doesn’t sound as questionable. Nearly 1000 mcg/day of folate is more though than is generally needed for breastfeeding moms.

3. Vitamin C in Breastmilk

In a review of studies on breastfeeding and vitamin C, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development cites a study where breastfeeding mothers were given up to 1000 mg of vitamin C daily for 2 days. Even the breastmilk that had the highest levels of vitamin C did not pose any safety risks for an infant.

4. Scientific Evidence Supporting Extra Vitamin C Benefits

It’s hard taking care of young children without having a nasty cold, so potentially lessening the severity of a cold by taking some extra vitamin c through a product like Emergen C is an enticing prospect. 

Scientific Studies on the Benefits of Vitamin C

  • In a meta-analysis in BMC Public Health, researchers concluded that vitamin C reduces the severity of colds by 15-26%.

To reach their conclusion, researchers analyzed randomized controlled trials and placebo-controlled trials. Study participants took 1000 mg or more of vitamin C daily. The majority of the studies included in the meta-analysis had participants taking 1000 mg/day of vitamin C for 3 months.

  • Researchers conclude in a study published in Breastfeeding Medicine that 500 mg of vitamin C and 100 IU of vitamin E improve antioxidants in breast milk and infant urine. 

While an interesting study on the positive effects of higher levels of vitamin C, the results aren’t necessarily translatable to the vitamin C in Emergen-C. Emergenc-C powder packets do not have vitamin E in them and also contain twice the amount of vitamin C as was administered in the study. 

Emergen C Chewables do have 13.5 mg of vitamin E in them, however, this is less than the 100 IU of vitamin E that participants took in the study. 

5. Focusing on Sleep, Diet, and Exercise

As a breastfeeding mom, I am interested in trying daily Emergen C through the cold and flu season to possibly reduce the severity of sick symptoms. I know it is not a magic elixir, but anything that might help even a little bit when battling a nasty bug and simultaneously trying to take care of little ones is a major plus.

I will be watching out for any potential negative side effects that come with taking high levels of vitamin C. While 1000 mg of daily vitamin C is under the established UL, I wonder how some people may not have the same level of tolerance for higher doses of vitamin C as others do.

1000 plus mg of vitamin C in a day may work great for one person, but it may be too much for another and result in unpleasant side effects like diarrhea and nausea. Breastfeeding moms need to stay hydrated, so a bout of diarrhea certainly is not going to do them any favors. I’ll take a sore throat over that any day! 

Additionally, Healthline explains that excess vitamin C in the body is flushed out through urine since it is a water-soluble vitamin. So if I am potentially consuming more vitamin C in my postnatal vitamin, Emergen C, and food sources all combined than my body can process, am I essentially flushing money down the toilet? Perhaps my money would be better spent on whole foods and lifestyle habits to support healthy and normal immune function than Emergen C. Food for thought.

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Healthy Carrot Muffins for Toddlers with No Added Sugar

Healthy Carrot Muffins for Toddlers with No Added Sugar

These healthy toddler muffins with no added sugar are a big hit in our house! They are full of wholesome ingredients like carrots, oats, unsweetened applesauce, and almond butter.  Additionally, you can easily make these muffins gluten-free or vegan with a couple of tiny tweaks!  

How to Choose the Best Non-Dairy Milk for Toddlers

How to Choose the Best Non-Dairy Milk for Toddlers

Summary of Findings on The Best Non-Dairy Milk for Toddlers US scientific agencies (CDC, FDA) and professional associations (APA, AHA) recommend unsweetened fortified soy milk as the best substitute for cow’s milk for young children. 1-2 years of age is an important period of growth 

Fun Toddler Activities in Portland OR: Insider Scoop (2024)

Fun Toddler Activities in Portland OR: Insider Scoop (2024)

There are so many great activities for toddlers to explore in and around Portland, OR. I’ve included some of our favorite picks here!

Toddler Friendly Parks

Laurelhurst Park

Laurelhlurst Park is located in southeast Portland. It is an amazing park for the whole family.

family walk in Laurelhurst Park

Laurelhurst is a huge park with a walking path that loops around a hilly field of giant trees and a duck pond. There is also a biking area with small ramps and miniature half pipes!

toddler riding bike at Laurelhurst Park in Portland Or

For toddlers who love riding strider bikes, they are in for a special treat! While this biking area is for big and small kids alike, morning time is usually a good time to go for some toddler-friendly biking. Especially a Sunday morning. 

Walk a couple of minutes up past the biking stretch, and you will find a lovely little toddler playground. All the equipment is perfectly toddler-sized and there are a bunch of picnic benches surrounding the playground.

toddler park in portland or

If you pack some snacks and a picnic, you could easily spend half a day roaming around Laurelhurst Park with little ones.

The park has a lovely relaxed vibe, and you may even find someone playing guitar on a bench by the pond.  

And most importantly for the adults, there is a wonderful bakery nearby, Crema Coffee & Bakery. It’s a short drive or a 15-minute walk from Laurelhurst Park. It is a casual spot, so drink and eat there, or grab your pastries and coffee to go. There may be a bit of a line, but you know the pastries are worth it!

There are also food trucks right next door to the bakery if you are looking for some variety.

Gabriel Park

One of my favorite parks to spend time at is Gabriel Park in SW Portland. It is a large park area with a playground, walking paths, tennis courts, baseball fields, a skate park, an off-leash dog park, a basketball court, and plenty of open grassy areas. It is a great place to relax and get some fresh air. 

visiting flowering trees in portland or

You can also head up a trail connected to the park to check out a community garden. There are some beautiful flowering and fruit trees in the small orchard as well.

Flowering trees will start blooming in late March through late April, and Gabriel Park and the surrounding neighborhoods are great places to see some amazing cherry blossoms, magnolias, and pear tree blooms!

Multnomah Village

Multnomah Village is a quaint little neighborhood that is a mile or so from Gabriel Park in SW Portland.

Check out Pilea Play in the village and let your toddler explore this indoor play space designed for little ones up to age 6. You can get 2 1/2 hours of playtime for kids up to age 6 for $16 (under 9 monthers do not need a ticket). You can also check out the local toy store, Thinker Toys.

When you get hungry, there are family-friendly restaurants in the village as well. Check out Marco’s Cafe and Espresso Bar, Down to Earth CafeVillage Hut, or Lucky Labrador. Marco’s and Down to Earth have classic American Cuisine and both have kids’ menus. Lucky Labrador is a pizza joint, and Village Hut features seafood, steak, chicken, tofu, rice, and vegetable stir fry plates. 

Powell’s City of Books

It would not be a proper trip to Portland without a visit to Powell’s City of Books. There are 2 other Powell’s locations around the Portland area, but the downtown location on Burnside is the main attraction with the largest section of children’s books.

Powell’s is a huge bookstore, so there is something in there for everyone. It has both used books and new books. We usually buy used ones and they are always in great condition.

Powell’s also has tons of creative and cute gifts unique to Portland, so it’s a good spot to knock out some quality local gift shopping. There is also a coffee shop in the bookstore that is a fun place to get a beverage and pastry.

And don’t forget to get your iconic Portland bridges poster at Powell’s for your toddler’s room! The poster shows 12 of Portland’s famous downtown bridges on the Willamette River.

Hopscotch

Hopscotch is a permanent interactive immersive art exhibit in SE Portland. This is a family-friendly experience, and 3 and under-aged kids are free! Adults are $24, and 4-15 year olds are $15. Get your tickets online a day or two in advance. They tend to sell out. 

Washington Park Attractions

Oregon Zoo

The Oregon Zoo is in SW Portland and is a fantastic place for toddlers to run and explore. If you have a stroller or wagon filled with small children and snacks, you will be in good company at this zoo.

There is plenty of greenery along the walking paths plus a huge grassy area to lay out a picnic. There are also plenty of tables to have snacks or lunch. 

By the rainforest animals, a popular spot for toddlers is the giant sandbox. There is also a small train that you can ride on around the zoo. Train tickets are in addition to regular admission and are purchased at the train area.

If you are local to the Portland area, getting an annual zoo membership is worth it. Otherwise a single visit is $24 for an adult pass (12+ years old) and $19 for 2-11 year olds. Under 2 is free. 

visiting portland oregon zoo with toddlers

If you are visiting Portland in the winter, the zoo does “Zoo Lights”, where the zoo is lit up with more string lights than you have ever seen.

In the summer (mid June-mid August), the zoo hosts “zoo nights” featuring live music, food carts and kids’ activities. You can pack your own food and spread out on the large family-friendly picnic areas as well.

For both Zoo Lights and regular admission days you need to reserve tickets online. 

Also, do not be afraid to visit the zoo on a rainy day. As long as you have some rain gear and it’s not a total downpour, the zoo is great rain or shine. I actually prefer visiting on drizzly days because it is not as crowded. Plus, all the greenery along the paths feels extra refreshing.

Hoyt Arboretum

Next door to the zoo, and also part of Washington Park is Hoyt Arboretum.

toddler in Hoyt Arboretum in Portland OR

While a beautiful area any time of the year, it is truly spectacular in the Fall as the leaves change colors. There are many different species of trees and plentiful paths for little ones to run around and collect all different shaped and sized leaves.

You can stick to stroller-friendly paths or explore some of the hiking trails. There is no admission fee, however it is paid parking. 

International Rose Test Garden

Another attraction of the Washington Park area is the International Rose Test Garden. If you are visiting Portland or looking for activities late May through October, do not miss visiting the Rose Garden.

Toddlers will love running through the rows of rose bushes and smelling the fragrant flowers. Take some pictures and explore the whole garden area. 

Japanese Garden

My initial thought on whether the Japanese Garden is kid-friendly or not was, no. I’ve walked through the Japenese Garden several times (pre-kids) and while I have always enjoyed it as an adult, I did not think it would hold a child’s interest for very long.

Upon greater reflection though, I think the Japanese Garden is a wonderful place to take a young child.

visiting the japanese garden in portland or

It is an opportunity to teach kiddos about respecting a space and appreciating the time and effort put into cultivating a cultural space. There is plenty of plant life and beautiful winding paths to explore as well.

OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science & Industry)

OMSI’s Science Playground is designed for kids up to 6 years old. They can climb, play, and explore the interactive exhibits.

With an admission ticket, you get access to the Science Playground as well as to the permanent and temporary exhibits. Ticket prices as of March 2024 are $19/adult, $14/3-13 years old, and free for under 3s. While it can get pretty busy in the kids area, weekday afternoons are typically the least crowded and the best time to visit. 

Rhododendron Garden

The Rhododendron Garden is a magical 9-acre garden for families to walk around and enjoy the scenery. Children 10 and under are free and adults and older kids are only $5 (and free on Mondays!).

ducklings at rhododendron garden in portland or

The expansive garden is bursting with beautiful plant life and happy ducks. Visit in the spring and you will probably see some cute ducklings swimming in a line behind their mama. 

Oaks Park

Oaks Park has a roller skating rink as well as an amusement park.

The amusement park is only open in the spring, fall, and summer months. Ride bracelets are a bit pricey (up to almost $50 for adults) and around $25 for under 48″ kiddos on peak days, in addition to a small daily parking fee. However, they have lots of fun rides for young kids and some family-friendly rides. 

The roller skating rink has roller skates as little as toddler size 7 for rent and they offer 6 and under, and 10 and under skate session times. They have as little as toddler 7-size roller skates for rent. 

Portland Aerial Tram 

Take a ride on Portland’s aerial tram to see some beautiful views of the city. Kids aged 6 and under are free, $8 for an adult pass

Libraries

There are plenty of storytimes offered throughout the Portland Multnomah County Library locations. You can search for specific library storytimes through their website, as well as see any additional kid-friendly events going on.

Another great offering through the library system is My Discovery Pass. You can get one of these passes with your library card and get free access to many attractions in Portland like the Portland Art Museum and the Japanese Garden.

Vancouver Children’s Library

While not in Portland, the Vancouver Community Library is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Portland (less than a 15 minute drive from downtown Portland). Plus, if you live in Multnomah County you can still get a Vancouver library card through their reciprocal library system. 

The Vancouver Library in WA has an amazing children’s section and play area. There are big tables with markers available, large tent-like structures for kids to wander in and out of, plenty of toddler-friendly seating, and lots of interactive displays.

vancouver children's library near portland or

Livability has ranked the Vancouver Children’s Library as #2 in the top 10 best children’s libraries in the US.

You can check out the library’s schedule of events to see if there are any fun activities or performances scheduled (just be sure to filter for the downtown Vancouver library as the schedule shows all the Vancouver libraries). Last summer we went to an amazing juggling act put on for kids. 

There are also lots of different storytimes available for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and families. Other family friendly scheduled events include “Crafternoons” and “Music & Movement”. All amazing for young kids, and of course free of charge. The Vancouver library system also has Grow a Reader program, where you can borrow learning kits from the library with different themes for kids. 

Portland Art Museum

The Portland Art Museum (PAM) is another spot that I did not initially consider would be a toddler-friendly spot to visit. Little did I know though, the PAM hosts Family Day events that include art-making and meeting local artists.

The PAM website encourages parents to bring their kids and let the kids lead the way. Parents can spend extra time looking at and talking about the art pieces that their kids are naturally drawn to in the museum. PAM also suggests asking kids open-ended questions about the art they are looking at and letting them take pictures of the artwork as a way to connect. Parents can also model an interest in and love for art during their visit, which kids will pick up on.

There is a small cafe in the museum, so everyone can get a snack too if kids and/or parents need a little morale boost!

Portland Art Museum has free admission every Friday from 4pm-8pm! If you are local and have a Multnomah County library card, you can get a My Discovery Pass and reserve free tickets for 2 adults. And anyone under 21 years old is free! Otherwise, adult admission is $20.

Visit the PAM website for information on current temporary exhibits. Parents will likely only see a small portion of the museum with little ones in tow, so if there is an exhibit you really want to see you can prioritize it. 

Indoor Playgrounds

A good indoor playground is a must in the rainy Pacific Northwest. While I love being out in the rain, there are some days that you just want to stay dry inside. Here are some good indoor playgrounds to check out in and around Portland on those downpour days. 

DiG PDX in Beaverton – Less than 15 minutes from downtown Portland, you can find Oregon’s biggest indoor sandbox. Toy construction vehicles and mounds of sand? My toddler could spend hours here. Admission is $16/child. Non-walking siblings are free. 

Playdate PDX – Your classic indoor playground with a large play structure and some chairs and tables for snacking. Admission is $13.50/hr per child. 

City Play in Vancouver – While not in Portland, City Play is in nearby Vancouver WA. Just about a 20 minute drive from downtown Portland. The owners were inspired to start City Play when the Portland Children’s Museum closed. City Play has themed rooms with toys and furniture to inspire creative imaginative play. Admission is $15/child aged 1-8 years old. 

Leka Playland – Leka Playland is in Portland’s neighboring city, Tigard. It is a beautiful indoor play space designed for kids up to age 5.  

Nature Walks

Forest Park

Wanting to go for a hike, but not prepared to head out to the Columbia Gorge with little ones in tow? Don’t worry, you can find ample beautiful hiking and plenty of trails right in the city in Forest Park. Check out the Hardesty Trail for a family-friendly hike in the park. 

Tryon State Park

Tryon State Park in SW Portland is one of my favorite places. 

tryon state park walk with toddler

You are surrounded by big trees and beautiful forest plant life. You can either stick to a paved path or wander off onto a dirt trail. Parking can be a bit hairy during the weekends, so I suggest visiting on a weekday if possible. It is a great place for kids to explore nature and get some walking in.  

George Rogers Park

Visit the George Rogers Park Beach along the Willamette River to play in the sand and watch the boats and paddle boarders. Additionally, from George Rogers Park you can take a walking path to Old River Road Pathway. This is a beautiful walking path that runs alongside the Willamette. There are a number of other walking paths to explore in the area as well.

Portland Parks & Recreation Nature Walks

Portland Parks & Recreation has a Ladybug Nature Walks program for toddlers and preschoolers. Groups meet at various parks around Portland and a Nature Educator leads a walk with learning activities. Sign up for a walk online. There is a $5 fee per child. 

Pittock Mansion

Check out a spectacular view of the city from Pittock Mansion and let your toddler run around the grounds. You can also pay to do the tour inside the Mansion if that sounds interesting.

view from Pittock mansion in portland or

There are also Forest Park trails right by the Mansion, so you can take a little forest walk as well during your visit. The parking lot is paid parking, but it’s only a couple of dollars per hour.  

Berry Picking

Berry picking is one of our favorite family activities around the Portland area. The season lasts from June through August, so be sure to visit one of the U-pick berry farms if you are looking for something to do in those summer months.

toddler picking berries at u-pick farm near portland or

Columbia Farms on Sauvie Island is a favorite for a variety of berries, however, there are many farms all over the place. Sauvie Island is surprisingly accessible though, being less than a 30 minute drive without traffic from downtown Portland. 

Sweet Treats

Eb & Bean Fro Yo

There’s nothing better than a good fro-yo date with a toddler! If you want to take your frozen yogurt experience to the next level, check out Eb & Bean

They have locations in NE, SE, and NW Portland. You can order dairy or non-dairy frozen yogurt and choose from flavors like Maple Rosemary Hazelnut and Purple Carrot Cake. Don’t forget to add some sauce like Coconut Milk Caramel or Local Honey, and magic shells like cookie butter plus all the good toppings. Yum!

Pips Donuts

One of the great things about Pips is that their donuts are kid-size! So if you want to avoid the drama of cutting a regular donut in half to give to a toddler who wants the whole thing, head to Pips!

Pips also serves a variety of housemade Chai drinks. They have a location in NE Portland and one in Beaverton. 

Voodoo Doughnuts

While there are now several Voodoo Doughnut locations in different states, it all started in downtown Portland, OR. Since the doughnut shop has become a tourist destination, you may have to wait in line. If your toddler doesn’t mind waiting though and you have something to keep them busy, you will have plenty of yummy doughnuts to choose from. Don’t forget to try the famous Bacon Maple Bar. 

Blue Star Donuts

Blue Star has 6 locations around Portland (and one in CA), and makes gourmet donuts with high-quality ingredients. While your toddler may not appreciate the Bourbon Blueberry Basil donut, they just may love the Lemon Poppy Old-Fashioned, the Tropical Delight, or the Passion Fruit Cake! 

Coffee Shops

Papaccinos

Papaccinos is a cozy coffee shop in the Woodstock neighborhood in SE Portland. They have a small kids’ play area and I like that it has a more open feel with a bigger square footage than many coffee shops.

There is also a New Seasons across the street with some rooftop outdoor seating. This can be a good place to have a casual meal with young kids. There is also a great ice cream parlor, Cloud City nearby. 

Awake Coffee & Art

What could be better than a place that offers art activities for kids and coffee for adults? I honestly can’t think of much that is better in this season of life with young kids.

Check out Awake Coffee & Art in the Sellwood neighborhood in SE Portland. For $8/class, they have story reading followed by an art class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. 

Posies and Kenton Park

Posies Cafe is a family-friendly coffee shop in North Portland. They have a play area for kids and even some kids’ menu items.

You can walk to nearby Kenton Park after grabbing your coffee for some fresh air and playtime as well. 

Woodburn Tulip Festival 

While not in Portland’s city limits and only open seasonally, the Woodburn Tulip Festival is worth the 40 minute or so drive from downtown Portland. You will never see so many colorful tulips in all your life.

family outing to woodburn tulip festival farm
 

This is a great place for a toddler to run around. If it’s raining there are some amazing mud puddles to splash around in. 

Visit the Woodburn Shoe Tulip Farm website for open days and admission prices.

Swimming Pools and Splash Pads

North Clackamas Aquatic Park

North Clackamas Aquatic Park in SE Portland has special swim times for infants and children under 6 years old. Admission is $5 for non-resident adults, and $4 for non-resident 3-6 year olds. Under 3 years old is free. 

Community Center Swimming Pools

Portland Parks & Recreation runs several indoor and outdoor pools. The outdoor pools are seasonal, but you can check out the kid-friendly indoor pools year-round.

Jamison Square Splash Pad

Jamison Square is located in NW Portland and has an interactive water feature that is touted as a favorite among many local parents. The water is chlorinated and it is the perfect place to hang out on a hot summer’s day. The fountain does not run in the fall and winter, so visit the Square and splash around in the warm summer months. 

Ikea

While not exactly a tourist destination, locals especially may be interested to know that Ikea offers up to an hour of free childcare while parents are shopping.

Plus, most young kids really love the food in Ikea restaurants. It is plain and simple and for some reason, my toddler will even gobble up their veggies. The restaurant has open seating and it is a very casual place to grab some food and sit with kids. The line can be a bit long at peak times, but if you go when they first open you can fly right on through and get your food quickly.

If you are flying in and out of Portland, know that Ikea is out by the airport. So may be a good destination before or after a flight to refuel and take a moment. 

Wonderwood

Explore the creations of Portland-based artist, Mike Bennet, while playing mini golf and grabbing some food at Wonderwood Springs and Wonderwood Mini Golf. The miniature golf course and restaurant/coffee shop are right next door to one another and kids and adults alike are welcome! It’s $10/person, but under 3s are free!

Portland OR Toddler Activities and Sites Wrap Up

There are so many more great toddler activities in Portland OR that I have not included in this list, so I will be adding to it as we continue to check out this amazing city! 

What’s your favorite place or thing to do with young kids in Portland? Please share in the comments below!

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Overstimulated Mom Symptoms and 20 Soothing Ways to Cope

Overstimulated Mom Symptoms and 20 Soothing Ways to Cope

An overstimulated mom is tired, stressed, and overwhelmed. Her nervous system has been bombarded with sensory information in the form of shrieking rambunctious children, crying babies, and the countless demands of motherhood. 

She may experience strong feelings of anger and irritability, and feel like she is losing control. She may even experience feelings of anxiety and panic.

Ongoing sensory system stimulation coupled with sleep deprivation and a never-ending to-do list leads to fried nerves and emotional dysregulation.

While some mamas are more prone to experience overstimulation than others, the demands that come with young children and the mental load of motherhood can rattle even the most resilient and grounded of mamas.

When left unchecked, chronic overstimulation can lead to burnout, relationship problems, and serious mental health conditions.

In review, here are some symptoms that point to mom overstimulation;

  • anger
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • panic
  • emotional dysregulation
  • feelings of loss of control
  • difficulty focusing
  • hyper-aware of sights, sounds, smells, and bodily sensations
  • overwhelmed

In good news, there are great ways moms can cope with overstimulation. Here are 20 tips to get started! 

20 Practical Ways to Cope with Mom Overstimulation

The first step to managing overstimulation is to identify your sensory triggers. After identifying these triggers, you can more easily recognize when you are becoming overstimulated and can activate your arsenal of coping mechanisms.  

1. Prioritize Sleep

Creating a solid routine around sleep is essential for an overwhelmed mom.

I am easily overstimulated during the day when I do not get enough sleep. On the other hand, when I am adequately rested, I find that all the sensory inputs of the day do not rattle me. I also have more energy to redirect my children to grounding activities when I’m well-rested.

Even when I want to stay up late after my kids go to bed, I have finally learned that this is generally a bad idea. I know that I want to function better for myself and my family, so I do my best to head to bed early. 

I also focus on sleep hygiene, and make sure that my sleep environment is set to get some quality zzzs. This means having a dark, cool, and calming room. We have a sound machine quietly humming and I wear soft comfortable pajamas. I use a couple of blankets for layering and keep a water bottle by my bed. 

2. Minimize Visual Clutter

One of my favorite ways to deal with overstimulation is to declutter and create a minimal landscape in my home. This means having a clear countertop and tabletop and consolidating toys in a basket. It means getting rid of junk mail and all the pesky odds and ends that somehow find their way into our homes. It also means doing my best to refrain from retail therapy and unnecessary shopping. 

I constantly try to keep all the excess clutter in check so that on those days when I’m reaching my sensory threshold, I can at least look around me and feel a sense of calm.

3. Curate Your Home with Soothing Sensory Items

To combat unpleasant sensory stimuli, you can sprinkle soothing sensory stimuli around the house.

minimalist home with plant decor

Here are some ideas to create a calming sensory experience at home;

  • Cozy blankets
  • Sound machines
  • House plants
  • Aromatherapy diffuser
  • Beautiful artwork
  • Lots of clear spaces

4. Acupressure

Over my 10 years as a massage therapist, I witnessed the profound impact our bodies have on our sense of well-being. When we encourage our bodies to relax, our minds follow. While I’m not a professional acupressurist, there are many websites with basic directions for the layperson to follow to practice self-acupressure.

Among the many acupressure points that Hackensack Meridian Health recommends for stress relief, I’ve picked 3 that are doable and helpful for an overwhelmed mama. These points are easy to access and gently massage during an overstimulating day as a busy mom.

Locate the following 3 points and gently massage them in small circular motions;

  • The webbing between the index finger and thumb
  • The top center point of your head
  • In between your eyebrow

5. Schedule Daily Quiet Time

While I certainly use screen time to entertain my 4-year-old from time to time, I am trying to get away from this. The main reason is that when he is watching TV as his “quiet time”, he is not learning to focus and sustain his attention on his self-directed activities.

I want him to learn to use his internal resources and creativity rather than rely only on outside sources of stimulation and entertainment.

The second reason is that kids’ brains are not getting true quiet and relaxation time when hooked on the TV. The TV emits blue light which is stimulating to the brain additionally, most kids’ shows are full of bright lights, are action-packed, and have rapidly changing scenes. 

A more restorative quiet time can be spent in a calming room with simple toys, drawing materials, sculpting materials, and books.

Moms can use quiet time as well to release built-up stress and gather their energy for the rest of the day. 

6. Deep Breathing Exercises

While moms can not fully check out and take a nap when responsible for watching children, they can take some deep breaths at any given moment.

I like to practice my deep breathing exercises as I’m waiting for my 4-year-old to brush his teeth or make his way to the potty.  

7. Connect with Water

Whenever I am feeling overstimulated, putting my hands under running water or taking a big drink of water helps soothe me.

hands in soothing water

Even when you can’t take a relaxing bath, you can take moments to consciously connect with the soothing effects of water when washing your toddler’s hands. Or when bathing your kids or doing dishes.

Soothing mom overstimulation is all about finding small creative ways you can realistically manage overwhelm in the middle of a hectic day. 

8. Go Outside

Some fresh air can do wonders for both mom and active kids. It can help improve everyone’s mood and bring balance and calm.

mom outside in nature with kids

If you don’t have a backyard where you can let kids run wild, try finding the closest park or nature walking area. You can give your kids small buckets and tell them to collect their favorite rocks and sticks, while you take a few moments to do some deep breathing exercises and enjoy the scenery.  

9. Stretch

When stress builds up in our bodies it leaves us feeling tense and uncomfortable. Taking a moment to do some simple stretches can help release some of this accumulated tension. You can do a quick body scan, and take note of anywhere you feel tight. Then take a moment to move your body and stretch out that area.

Whenever I feel tension building in my body, I redirect my kids to our carpeted room so that I can roll around on the floor and get some stretching in while they play. 

You can also get your kids involved and teach them simple yoga poses. The Cosmic Kids Yoga channel on YouTube incorporates storytelling with yoga poses to keep little ones interested.

10. Redirect Kids to a Grounding Activity

Use the inherent soothing qualities of materials like play dough, clay, and kinetic sand to get your kids to take it down a notch. These sensory play materials give kids something to sink their hands into and focus their attention on. I make a big batch of DIY play dough or homemade kinetic sand now and then so that he has plenty to work with.

Another favorite grounding activity in our house is building blanket forts. My son loves bringing a flashlight or star projector light into a fort and spending some quiet time in it.  

11. Put on Soothing Music

Putting on some calming meditation or acoustic music can help slow down the energy of a hectic household.  

12. Wear Comfortable Clothing

When moms are overstimulated by loud noises and small children frantically moving around them all day, a tight waistband digging into the belly or a scratchy sweater can just add to the overwhelm.

Adding soft fabrics and loose clothing to your wardrobe can bring calm and comfort to an overstimulated mom.

13. Turn the Lights Down

Simply turning the lights down or drawing the curtains for a short time can be calming during a chaotic day.

14. Schedule Quiet Alone Time

While quiet alone time is not an option when caring for young children, it is essential to schedule this time for yourself with the help of your partner or childcare provider. 

15. Know Your Limits

When it comes to schedules, it is easy to fill them up with more than we can realistically handle.

I try to limit scheduled activities to one or two a day. This gives us all time to have some downtime before and after outings to regroup.

16. Find a Hobby or Activity that Helps you Release Stress

There’s no way to completely avoid stressors in this life, so figuring out a healthy way to manage and release accumulated stress is the next best thing. This looks different for everyone, but some popular stress-relieving hobbies include taking walks, taking baths, reading a good book, crafting, coffee dates with friends, yoga, or recreational sports. 

17. Use a Talking Stick

My 4-year-old came home from preschool one day with a stick decorated with pipe cleaners and jingle bells and announced that it was a talking stick. I thought this was a great idea and we now use it while eating dinner. I also pull it out when I need to get a word in during the day and my child is struggling to stop talking. 

18. Create a Calm Corner

Cozy blankets, pillows, a calm jar, a stack of books with beautiful illustrations, some twinkle lights, and a small table with simple art supplies can turn a small corner into a calming haven. You can direct your child to this corner when you need a moment, or you can both go to this corner to read a book together.

calm corner for young children

19. Create a Chore Calendar

In addition to decluttering, regularly tending to chores helps maintain a soothing environment at home. Writing down which days chores need to be done can help keep you on track. 

20. Teach Your Kids Relaxation Routines

Change sensory overload to cuteness overload by watching your kids engage in relaxation routines. We usually associate relaxation practices with adults, and we picture a mom holding a cup of tea with a book in her lap.

Picture this though, your 4-year-old holding a mini mug and making a honey lemon tea to sip on. Or your young child selecting a bubble bath pod and soothing bath toy to take a relaxing bath with. Or how about your little one meditating on a DIY calm jar made with glitter, water, and dish soap. These are all adorable and simple ways to add a little quiet and calm into the day when you need a mom break.

Seeking Professional Help

Outside of exercising your coping mechanisms at home, you may need professional support if those self-help tactics are not cutting it. Some parents of young kids may have conditions and temperaments that make them more susceptible to overstimulation, and they may need a little extra help. For example, a highly sensitive person or someone with an anxiety disorder may especially struggle with sensory overload while caring for young children. 

Sometimes we all need some outside help and that is why those services exist. You can seek help from a clinical psychologist, a mental health counselor, or a healthcare provider.

Or if you need help with basic household chores and have the funds, you can hire someone to clean your house or help organize your home.

For childcare support, finding a babysitter, daycare provider or some activity groups can be helpful.

Finding a Balance

Raising children is incredibly hard work and for many parents, overstimulation is simply par for the course. Luckily, there are ways to minimize the negative impact that overstimulation can have on tired parents. 

While there is a lot that is out of our control, there is a lot that is in our control. By implementing strategies like prioritizing sleep, setting up calming environments, directing our kids to grounding activities, and instituting quiet time, we can successfully manage overstimulation symptoms. We replace overwhelm and irritability with deep breaths and an arsenal of self-care tools. 

I always remind myself that one day I will miss the gleeful chatter and shrill shrieks of my children. I will miss the commotion that comes with the hustle and bustle of everyday life with kids. I will miss the piles of toys and dirty dishes. There will be so much that I will miss. 
 
So I reflect on this in quiet moments and acknowledge that I will gladly take the overstimulation that comes with having children; I know that my memories with my family will be among what I love most about my life when I look back on it.
 
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Understanding Children’s Development Through Drawing Stages

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How an Assertive Parenting Style Helps Mom Keep her Calm

How an Assertive Parenting Style Helps Mom Keep her Calm

As a mom of a rambunctious baby and a high energy preschooler, I can get pretty overstimulated and overwhelmed. Sometimes my nerves are completely fried by the end of the day. This is when I start to feel angry, resentful and burnt out. The constant motion, noise, and general chaos of raising two young children is just a lot for this mama to handle.

So I have been trying to figure out how to prevent reaching this point of exhaustion, while simultaneously keeping my kids happy and healthy.

One solution that has been incredibly helpful has been adopting an assertive parenting style. This parenting style is all about setting clear boundaries with children AND building a warm and loving parent-child relationship.

The term boundaries with children is often associated with an authoritarian parenting style; however assertive parenting teaches us that strong boundaries and mutual respect and warmth are not exclusive of one another. Parents can be authority figures who lead by example and a fair and assertive approach; not through fear of punishment and intimidation.

Key Benefits of Assertive Parenting

As a mom, I am attracted to two underlying themes of an assertive approach to parenting;

  • Both child’s and parent’s needs are met through cooperation, compromise and assertive communication, resulting in happy family members and a harmonious family unit.
  • Warmth, trust and respect form the foundation of the parent-child relationship, also resulting in a peaceful happy home.

1. Assertive Parenting Meets Child’s Needs AND Parent’s Needs

One of the primary benefits of an assertive parenting style is that both my needs and my child’s needs get met. I am able to maintain my sanity, while my children still get the love and attention they need from me. 

But how can this be? As moms, we often receive the message that we are supposed to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our children’s wellbeing. I do not buy into this message.

I know that I can be a better, happier, healthier mama when I am considering my children’s needs AND my needs. And there is almost always a way for everyone to get their needs met one way or another. Maybe not immediately or perfectly, but sufficiently. 

For example, my 4 year old wants me to play with him all of the time. If I want to get anything done around the house or simply eat some food though, I am learning to clearly and calmly tell him that I need to do x, y and z, and then I can play. 

By meeting our needs as mothers and individuals, we do not let resentment build up inside of us or let exhaustion drain us. When we have honored our needs, we can be our best selves and be fully present parents.  

Making sure our needs are met also models healthy self-care practices to our children as well as important assertiveness skills. This will help them become confident and assertive adults who know how to take care of themselves. As a mother, this is one of my greatest hopes for my children; that when I am no longer around, they know how to take care of themselves and are leading happy and healthy lives. 

2. Assertive Parenting Establishes a Healthy Parent-Child Relationship

The type of relationship a child has with a parent has an enormous impact on both a child’s and a parent’s emotional health. A warm and loving emotional bond where there is mutual respect between parent and child creates the foundation for a cooperative and confident child, and a confident parent.

Conversely, cold and uninvolved parenting styles can lead to children feeling insecure and anxious about where they stand and what they can expect in their relationship. 

An authoritarian parenting style for example, relies on punitive measures to try and control children. In contrast, assertive parenting elicits positive behaviors through kids’ genuine desire to cooperate rather than through fear of punishment.

Additional Benefits of Adopting an Assertive Parenting Style

Positive Behavior Changes

When the parent-child relationship is built on a foundation of mutual respect and trust, children experience the benefits of a positive relationship. This feels good for them and so they start acting in ways that maintain that positive feel good relationship. 

Power Struggles Become Less Frequent

Power struggles between parents and children are normal to some degree, but they do not have to be a way of life. Assertive parenting aims to transform combativeness during power struggles into opportunities for cooperation and compromise. 

Open Communication Between Parent and Child 

When parents model clear, respectful and open communication, children also learn this style of communication. They trust that they have a safe space with their parent to ask for what they need, and work out a positive way to meet that need. 

Healthy Relationships Become the Norm

Children grow up knowing what healthy relationships looks like and how to maintain them through assertive communication. This serves as a model that they can use as they develop other relationships as they get older.

If parents did not have a model of healthy relationships themselves growing up, this is their opportunity to break harmful intergenerational parenting patterns and offer their children a new approach. 

Assertive Parents Raise Assertive Kids

There is a wonderful kind of confidence that comes with being assertive. And when we model assertiveness to our children and teach them assertiveness skills, they learn how to be assertive themselves. They learn how to ask for what they need as well as respect other’s boundaries. 

I was well into adulthood before I understood the concept of assertiveness. This led to many uncomfortable situations where I remained silent while letting others cross my personal boundaries. This contributed to low self-esteem and conflict in my life. By embracing assertiveness now, I am hoping that my kids are better able than I was to confidently ask for what they need and uphold their personal boundaries. 

Assertive Parenting Skills to Develop

It’s all well and good to talk about the benefits of assertive parenting, but how does a frazzled mama or papa BE an assertive parent? Here are some essential assertiveness skills to practice. I am in the process of developing these skills myself, and while a slow process, I am seeing the benefits everyday, slowly but surely.

Clear and respectful communication

Speaking assertively means being clear on what you want to communicate and using respectful words and a calm voice to convey your message. Accusatory and unkind words are not productive and not a part of assertive communication. 

Use “I” statements and set clear limits. “I” statements help children know exactly where you stand, what you are feeling and what you expect.  

Active Listening

While assertive communication is important, knowing how to genuinely listen to children is also an essential skill. Listen to their words as well as taking notice of their body language and behaviors. Younger children often do not know how to verbally tell us what is going on, but they show us through their bodies and behaviors.

When we truly listen, we can often identify what’s behind frustration and bad behavior. And we realize that it is usually an unmet need or an uncomfortable feeling that kids are trying to deal with, but do not have the right coping skills to deal with in a productive way. So it is our job to help teach them more effective coping strategies and communication methods. 

Children also feel seen and heard when we let them know that we are listening through our body language and words. To let them know we are listening, we can maintain eye contact, put a hand on their shoulder, or get down on their level. We can also summarize back to them what they have said, or use words or sounds of acknowledgment (eg “uh-huh”) as they are talking to us.  

mom sitting at child's level listening to him

We have to remember that children are so new to this world and that their brains are still developing. If we can remember to see from a child’s perspective from time to time, we realize that they are usually not trying to terrorize us as parents. Usually they are just trying to connect and feel seen and heard. 

Emotional Regulation

We expect our kids to manage their emotions and resulting behaviors, but we often neglect to acknowledge that we are not managing our own very well. We also forget that children are still developing neurologically and need our help developing emotional regulation skills.

It’s perfectly okay and normal to feel exasperated and frazzled as a parent (it would be weird if we didn’t from time to time), but it is important to be mindful of how we are expressing those feelings. Do our children see us acting out aggressively when we are upset or frustrated with them? We don’t have to hide our feelings, but we do have to know how to express them appropriately and in a healthy way.

For example, sometimes we just need to take a step back from a stressful situation (as long as everyone is safe) and gather some self awareness. Then we can put a hand on our chest or belly and take some deep breaths. This is one way to regulate overwhelming stressful emotions.

mom practicing deep diaphragmatic breathing with hand on belly

When you expand your belly as you inhale, and deflate it as you exhale, this is called deep diaphragmatic breathing. It activates the vagus nerve and your body’s rest and relaxation response. This is the state we want to be in when we are dealing with troublesome and frustrating behaviors from our children.

Once our bodies and minds have calmed, we can speak to our children about what has happened and what needs to change. This is very different than screaming and yelling in frustration, which can be scary to children and exacerbate bad behavior.

Decision-Making Skills

Clear communication and decision-making go hand-in-hand. In order to clearly communicate with our children, we have to make clear decisions about what we want to communicate.

Rather than brushing off undesirable behavior because we don’t know how we want to deal with it, we have to stop and consider the best course of action. We may not always know if we are making the best decision, but we almost always have the opportunity to repair any damage we have done if we realize we have made the wrong decision. 

Setting Appropriate Boundaries

Setting and honoring appropriate boundaries is a essential part of assertive parenting. Boundaries let children know what is and is not okay. They also exist to help parents maintain their sanity!

Appropriate boundaries need to make sense and have a good reason for existing. Sometimes after asking myself why I have created a certain boundary with my child, I realize that there’s actually not a very good reason for it.

Good reasons for boundaries include boundaries that are made in order to keep kid’s and parents safe and healthy (emotionally and physically). 

Even when parents practice respectful communication with their kids and are calm and loving, there are bound to be situations where kids ignore set boundaries or parental requests. And oftentimes, they don’t even care about consequences. Even with natural consequences and logical consequences (vs threatening and punitive consequences), a child still may not give a hoot. In these cases, we need to consider if our child is feeling a lack of emotional connection with us. 

Reconnecting with a child can often give them the intrinsic motivation they need to jump on board with our requests (verses using bribes, threats and punishment to try and elicit cooperation).

For example, it’s common for young children to act out when a new baby enters the family. From their perspective, they feel like they are losing attention and therefore connection with their parents. My 3 year old started acting out after his baby sister came into the picture and started taking a lot of the time and attention that he was used to having from us. Slowly but surely and with lots of hug and acknowledgment of big feelings, those initial behaviors subsided. 

A more common example many parents can relate to is the power struggle that brushing teeth can be with young children. Historically, I have used threats and bribery to try and get my son to brush his teeth. Those tactics have rarely worked. He couldn’t care less. What I do know though, is that when I ask if he wants me to tell him a story while he’s brushing, he agrees 9 out of 10 times. And while this may be considered bribery, it is actually about taking the time to connect and be present with him.

Assertive Parenting Makes Us Stronger

I am so thankful for my children. They teach me everyday how to be more assertive, strong and flexible as a parent and a person. And as I learn about healthy boundaries, respectful communication, emotional regulation and self awareness, I hope to teach my children these skills as well so they feel confident and capable.

Parenting is certainly exhausting, but also the best thing that I know I will ever do in this life. If I can form a foundation of love, safety and happiness with them in our home, I know they will be better prepared for this world. 

Related parenting posts: 
Intergenerational Family Patterns and How We Parent
Preventing 3 Year Old Behavior Problems After New Baby
When Should Family Visit Newborn Baby
Helping Toddlers Deal with Big Feelings

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