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Sandwich Generation Planning

Sandwich Generation Planning

According to Pew Research, the “sandwich generation” describes, “those who have a living parent age 65 or older and are either raising a child under age 18 or supporting a grown child”. And they explain that the sandwich generation often is providing financial and or emotional support for 

Fighting Stay at Home Mom Shame

Fighting Stay at Home Mom Shame

After meeting someone new, I always dread that question, “What do you do?” This question used to be a source of pride for me when I was working (in a paid position) and/or was studying in school. Now though, I feel a touch of shame 

Simple Homemade Granola Bars for Toddlers

Simple Homemade Granola Bars for Toddlers

The concept of store-bought granola bars is great – easy, convenient grab and go snacks. The taste of them however, is often overly sweet and unappetizing in my opinion. And there’s just something about unwrapping food from shiny plastic that has been sitting in a box for who knows how long that doesn’t feel quite right.

Don’t get me wrong, I purchase my fair share of processed snacks from the grocery store. But I try not to rely on these types of snacks for my toddler all of the time. 

So I have been thinking about how great it would be to find a recipe for simple homemade granola bars for toddlers. My criteria for a worthy recipe includes the following;

  • Easy to make
  • Few ingredients
  • Whole food ingredients (unprocessed or minimally processed)
  • Tasty

I also wanted an apple flavored granola bar, because my toddler was having absolute meltdowns over some of the store bought apple Nutri Grain bars (he can’t get enough of those!). So I started experimenting with some apple based granola bar recipes, that didn’t have all the strange ingredients found in the store bought varieties. 

I landed on a recipe for “Healthy Apple Pie Oat Bars” from My Kids Lick the Bowl, and just added some fresh apple to it and experimented with some of the substitutes/options. I tried a couple of other apple bar recipes, and this one adapted from My Kids Lick the Bowl was definitely my favorite!

Ingredients for Homemade Granola Bars for Toddlers

  • 2 Cups Quick Rolled Oats
  • 1 Small-Medium Sized Apple
  • 1 Cup Applesauce
  • 1 Egg
  • 1.5 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons Unrefined Coconut Oil
  • Butter or coconut oil to grease a baking dish
You could also add other granola bar type ingredients your toddler likes to the mixture (eg, raisins, dried cranberries, shredded carrot, etc).

Directions

Aside from the ingredients, you only need 1 large mixing bowl, a baking dish and a fork to make these! Basically just mix all the ingredients together well, then smooth the mixture out flat onto a buttered baking dish, and bake in a preheated oven for 25 minutes or so!
 
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Add 2 cups quick rolled oats and 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon to a large bowl and mix them together.
  • Add 1 cup of applesauce to the same mixing bowl.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in the microwave, and then add it to the mixing bowl.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup to the bowl.
  • Crack an egg and add it to the mixture.
  • Mix all the ingredients together well. 
  • Finely chop a small-medium sized apple (ends up being about 1 cup) and mix them into the mixture. If you are making this for a very young child, be aware of the size of apple bits to avoid any choking hazard. You can also leave the apple out, but I like the texture, extra flavor and nutrients it adds.
  • Butter a baking dish, and add the mixture to the dish. Flatten it out evenly and put it in the oven to bake for 25 minutes.
  • Cool and cut.
soft baked apple toddler granola bars
simple homemade apple granola bars for toddlers

My toddler eats these bars for snacks, breakfasts or as side options for lunches and dinners! He also loves to help make these bars. There aren’t so many ingredients that it takes forever, and he enjoys dumping in all the ingredients and stirring them together. So it’s a great indoor activity to do with little ones. 

I store these homemade granola bars in a Tupperware in the fridge for a couple days. They’re usually gone pretty quickly because they are such an easy and convenient snack or side option! I like to have one for breakfast myself, or grab one to snack on as we are running out the door.

toddler eating homemade apple granola bar

How did these homemade bars turn out for you and your toddler? Please share in the comments below!

For more simple, delicious and nutritious toddler snack and meal ideas head to my Easy Toddler Recipes page!

Is a Chemical Pregnancy a Miscarriage?

Is a Chemical Pregnancy a Miscarriage?

My Chemical Pregnancies – What is a Chemical Pregnancy? – Is a Chemical Pregnancy a Miscarriage? – Do Repeated Chemical Pregnancies Count as “Recurrent Miscarriage”? – After a blighted ovum miscarriage about 6 months ago, I was cautiously optimistic that I would go on to 

Fighting the Mom Guilt Monster this Mother’s Day

Fighting the Mom Guilt Monster this Mother’s Day

While TV ads and hallmark cards often suggest that all “good” mothers want to spend Mother’s Day with their families, I am here to tell you otherwise. Most moms with young kids that I know just want some guilt free, luxurious alone time. To simply 

Why Does my 2 Year Old have an Imaginary Friend?

Why Does my 2 Year Old have an Imaginary Friend?

Meet Bobby: he is approximately 2 inches tall, has grey hair, blue eyes and wears train pajama pants. Bobby likes to run fast and he also like to hide in things – like pillows, snack cups and avocados. He can even go into other people’s bodies and become them!

This is the gist of what I have gleaned about my 2 year old’s imaginary friend. Bobby first came into our lives when my son was about 27 months old. And now a month later, Bobby seems to be a nearly constant presence.

When my 2 year old first started mentioning Bobby, my husband and I were not sure what he was talking about. When my husband brought up the possibility of an imaginary friend though, my son’s constant chatter about “Bobby” started to make more sense.

And while I was amused by Bobby, I started to wonder, why does my 2 year old have an imaginary friend? Should I be worried? Is my toddler lonely? Is it normal for 2 year olds to have imaginary friends? And what exactly are 2 year old’s envisioning when they talk about their imaginary friends?

Child Development and Imaginary Friends

As it turns out, Healthline explains that imaginary friends are usually nothing to worry about. In fact, they are often a sign of a healthy imagination and a desire to explore and develop new social and emotional skills. And in terms of prevalence, The Atlantic reports that “…by age 7, 65 percent of children will have an imaginary friend…”. Furthermore, imaginary friends can take all sorts of shapes and forms; fantastical creatures, objects, entities, there really seems to be no limit!

Important to note though, Romper shares some scenarios in which an imaginary friend could signal cause for concern. Examples of this might include something like your child saying something bad has happened to their imaginary friend, or blaming inappropriate behavior on their imaginary friend. This could indicate they are using their imaginary friend to talk about something bad that has actually happened to them, or that they are struggling with certain behaviors. 

Since my toddler has not expressed any concerning issues regarding Bobby, and Bobby has only once mischievously poked me in the eye, I’m inclined to celebrate my 2 year old’s imaginary friend. I love hearing about Bobby’s latest antics and my son lights up and giggles whenever he talks about his imaginary friend. And despite my son’s wide eyed amazement whenever he spots Bobby running around the house, Katie Lear explains that kids usually know that their imaginary friends are imaginary. 

So as I learn more about Bobby everyday, I also learn more about my son. I learn about his imagination and creativity, his growing social awareness, his interests and likes, his personality and his emotional development. When I started seeing Bobby as an extension of my son’s internal world, I realized just how much he was expressing about himself!

Toddlers Express Their Emotions through Imaginary Friends

It is easier for kid’s to understand and talk about their emotions when they assign it to a character outside of themselves, or in my son’s case, his imaginary friend. Kaiser Permanente uses the term “symbolic language” to define this phenomena of children using other people or animals from stories to express their emotions. By using a character, they are able to explore and talk about what they are experiencing and feelings, without having to directly talk about themselves. 

Here are some typical comments my toddler makes regarding his imaginary friend;

“Bobby’s angry.” – Like any toddler, my 2 year old gets angry and frustrated sometimes. But he is learning how to identify and express those emotions! And this indicates that he is learning to regulate his emotions, which is an important part of healthy emotional development. You can read more about emotional regulation development and toddlers in my post on “Helping Toddlers Deal with Big Feelings”. 

“Bobby loves mommy.” – While my 2 year old has never said, “I love Mommy”, I am super touched that Bobby loves me :). I often tell my toddler, “I love you”, and so I think he is learning more about our parent-child relationship and loving one another.

Toddlers Express Their Interests and Personalities Through Imaginary Friends

It makes sense that kids would create an imaginary friend that shares their own interests and personality traits that they can have fun playing with! And having an imaginary friend can help them practice their social skills before they make friends in the real world. 

Below are a couple of examples of statements my 2 year old has made about his imaginary friend;

“Bobby jumped in the snack cup!” – The fact that Bobby is only about 2 inches tall and is constantly running and hiding in things makes me think about my toddler’s active and playful nature. It is not surprising that Bobby is always on the move and playing games. I’m sure my toddler will be making some wild little friends in the real world soon. 

“Bobby is running outside with a banana!” – My son loves to run. Anytime, anywhere. And he loves bananas. So, often interpretations regarding imaginary friends’ behaviors are pretty straightforward!

Supporting Imagination and Social-Emotional Development in Toddlers

I often ask my son questions about his imaginary friend to get a better understanding of what is going on for him internally. And I’m often amazed at how much my 2 year old is able to communicate about his imaginary friend and indirectly himself!

So I always let my toddler lead the conversation and have full ownership of whatever vision he has cooked up of his imaginary friend (unless it’s something regarding an undesirable behavior like hitting etc). It’s always entertaining to hear his responses, and I love supporting his wild imagination!

Does your child have an imaginary friend? Please say hi and tell me a bit about it in the comments below!

Homemade Kinetic Sand for Toddlers

Homemade Kinetic Sand for Toddlers

Homemade kinetic sand is made up of oil, cornstarch and sand. These ingredients turn the sand into a crumbly claylike material. So you can mold kinetic sand similarly to how you can mold wet sand, but it doesn’t have the weight and moisture of wet 

Simple Easter Egg Fillers for Toddlers

Simple Easter Egg Fillers for Toddlers

Easter egg fillers for toddlers can be super simple to put together! In fact, after getting a bag of empty easter eggs at the thrift store for $2, I simply walked around the house and poked through the pantry to find some no fuss fillers. 

Pandemic Babies and Their Social Development

Pandemic Babies and Their Social Development

Babies who were born shortly before or after the COVID-19 pandemic are now wild little toddlers! But while completely wild at home, some of them exhibit some social apprehensions. People often use the term “COVID babies” or “pandemic babies” for these kiddos who hide behind their parents and cling to them for dear life in unfamiliar social scenarios. My son was born just shortly before the pandemic started, so he has essentially only known pandemic life and certainly fits the “covid baby” persona.

As an anxious first time mom, I definitely took COVID precautions seriously: we did not attend many social gatherings, generally avoided crowds and I didn’t even take my son to the grocery store with me until after he was a year old. I still take precautions, but am far more relaxed about it than I used to be. I am also a stay at home mom during the week, so my toddler has never been in daycare and regularly around other toddlers and adults. More on pandemic parenting life in my post, Pandemic Parenting Fatigue.

So now, with my son being 2 years old and with the world slowly starting to feel a bit more “normal”, I am exposing him to a lot more people and places. Plus, all the snow has melted for the season and we are spending most of our days out and about!

I take my tot to the park, on nature walks, to the grocery store, the gymnastics center, the library, the coffee shop and we visit close friends and family. When we first started diving into all these outings, my toddler would literally run in the opposite direction from any kid that approached him or walked by him. He also would start crying if I stepped more than a foot away from him in an unfamiliar, or even a not so unfamiliar setting. 

As he was exhibiting this separation anxiety, I started to question my parenting. Had I inadvertently sheltered my child to the point that it was detrimental to his social development? By choosing to be a stay at home parent, was I selfishly depriving him of regular interactions with his peers in daycare?

After a deep dive into the matter of toddler socialization though, I am confident that my son is doing just fine! So if you are a parent with a pandemic baby turned toddler, let me share some information and thoughts that may offer some comfort.

Toddler Social Development and Separation Anxiety

First, we need to understand and acknowledge what is considered developmentally appropriate when it comes to toddlers and issues like separation anxiety. In the “Parenting Beyond Discipline” podcast, Erin Royer explains that separation anxiety is fairly normal for young toddlers. 

She explains that separation anxiety often comes and goes up until the age of 5 or even 7 sometimes. And separation anxiety is not necessarily a bad thing, but oftentimes a sign of a strong and healthy attachment with a parent or caregiver. Children who have formed a healthy attachment trust that their parent or caregiver is going to consistently be there for them. They feel that they have a safe and secure base. So this is a good thing!

toddler secure attachment to parent

Further explaining healthy attachment, Gene Oullette in the Kindergarten Ready: What Really Matters in Child Development podcast explains that toddlers with healthy attachment have caregivers who are in tune with their child. They know when to provide comfort and safety for their children, but also know when to back off and let their child explore and develop their independence. 

So when separation anxiety is related to a child’s healthy attachment to a caregiver, perhaps starting to focus on this element of gently encouraging exploration and independence is especially relevant. I say gently though, because we have to remember that a 2 year old is still going through an incredible amount of growth and development. And they are experiencing many things for the very first time! So we have to remember this and allow them to be little.

For more on this topic of toddler development, see my posts on Shy Toddlers and Helping Toddlers Deal with Big Feelings.

Toddler Socialization

In the My New Life podcast by Lovevery, Jessica Rolph explains that it is “important to keep in mind that a lot of that socialization with other children doesn’t typically happen until much older than we think. So a 1 or 2 year old isn’t doing the same socialization as a 3, 4 and 5 year old.”

It’s so easy to forget that babies and young toddlers live in totally different worlds than we do. Their brains are still rapidly developing, and they simply see and experience the world differently than adults do or even kids do who are just a little bit older.

For example, Rolph and episode guest Nekole Eaton go on to discuss how a 1 year old simply isn’t ready to sit with other children and socialize in the way we think of socialization as adults. And even at 2 years old, those toddlers are engaging in what is referred to as “parallel play”. That is, they may play alongside each other, but they aren’t having direct interactive play. So if your 2 year old pandemic baby is still only interested in mostly doing his own thing when it comes to play, this is totally normal!

toddler parallel play

While keeping the above in mind, I do still think there are ways we can encourage our slow to warm-up toddlers to get more comfortable in unfamiliar social settings. Here are some of the things we are doing with my toddler to gently encourage his social blossoming. 

Supporting Pandemic Babies’ Social Development

Social Exposure Outings

These are outings where you and your toddler are around other people, but there is little pressure to interact with others directly. But, your toddler gets the chance to observe other people and learn that these scenarios are safe. Examples of low pressure outings and activities to start out with include the following;

  • Trips to the grocery store 
  • Local parks (usually there are high traffic park times that can be good for more exposure to other kids – around noon and early evening in our area) 
  • Quiet coffee shops
  • Libraries (You can check out my post on local children’s libraries and all they have to offer)

taking toddler out during covid to a quiet coffee shop and the library

Ideas for more demanding social outings and experiences to work up to include the following;

  • Local toddler classes (We are about to check out “Tinkergarten” and local toddler gymnastics classes)
  • Playdates with one or two other toddlers
  • Leaving your toddler with a babysitter, friend or family member for a short period of time (starting out with even just 20 minutes)

Baby Steps Towards Social Experiences and Behaviors

Some toddlers need a little more support, time and encouragement than others when it comes to social mingling, and this is perfectly ok! If the world were filled with all the exact same types of people, that would be so dull! We need all the different types of little toddlers with all their different little personalities. 

So for my toddler who has a slow to warm-up temperament, I often remind myself that taking baby steps when it comes to his social development is helpful. I encourage him, but don’t push him. For example, I will comment on how much fun it looks like kids are having at the park and let him know he can play too if he wants. If he wants to keep observing for awhile though, I don’t push it. 

And since adopting this baby steps mindset, I have actually been blown away by how fast he is taking those baby steps! For example, within a week, he went from running away from kids who were close to him at the park, to sharing his toy cars with a couple of little boys. 

Building Social Life into a Routine

Babies and toddlers thrive off of routine. Routines help them feel like the world is safe and predictable. They know what to expect and so they can use their energy and attention on other matters. 

So when it comes to helping my toddler feel more comfortable in social settings, I am talking to him a lot about where we are going, who will be there and what it will be like before we actually get to those places. I also try to take him to the same places every week, so that he gets more comfortable in those settings. 

While I think the above steps are important to help my toddler feel more confident in social settings, I also am starting to think about preschool or some other way to get him spending time with a regular group of his peers once he gets a little older.

In her podcast “Parenting Beyond Discipline”, Erin Royer explains that from around age 3 to 3.5 is a really important period for social development and growth. This is when kids start wanting more direct and regular interaction with their peers.

Learning About Social Relationships at Home and Through Books

I have often caught myself thinking that the only way my son is going to learn to be social is through interacting with his peers. I forget though, that parents are actually the first people who are usually teaching their babies and toddlers about social behavior. 

For example, we can teach our toddlers how to be kind, take turns and play games at home. We teach them about basic behaviors that are and are not socially acceptable. And we create a healthy relationship with them, so that they know what that looks like and how it works. 

In addition to teaching them these things through our everyday interactions, we can also read them books with stories about prosocial behaviors. Young children can pick up on so much through simple story books and illustrations!

For more ideas on supporting toddlers’ social development, see my post on Shy Toddlers and 5 Ways to Support Their Social Development.

Pandemic Parenting Support

Especially during these strange pandemic times, I think we all need a little extra encouragement and kindness as parents. For our own wellbeing, and also so that we can extend that same love and support to our children. So I hope we can all give ourselves a little encouraging pat on the back and celebrate our little tots!

If you have any comments, experiences or additional ideas on ways to support young toddlers and their social development, please say hi and leave a comment below!

The Best Free Resource for Toddler Parents

The Best Free Resource for Toddler Parents

The local children’s library is the best free resource for toddler parents! Especially as a stay at home mom during the week, I am always looking for ways to connect my son to nurturing people and places outside of our home. And the library has