Parenting a Child with Down Syndrome

By Amanda Brunning, TLC Preschool Teacher & TLC Parent

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. My son, Caleb, was diagnosed with Down syndrome when he was born, and our family has since been on a transformative journey as Caleb grows and explores his world, and as we learn how to be the best parents to him that we can be.

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I want to share what I have learned in the past two years about Down syndrome and how my son has changed me. When we got the call about Caleb two years ago (my husband and I were hoping to adopt a child), the first thing our caseworker told us was that he had Down syndrome. Working with children with a variety of special needs as a teacher, I knew a little bit about Down syndrome. I knew that this meant that he had been born with an extra 21st chromosome, and that he would most likely have a list of other health issues, some that would not become apparent until he continued to grow. I knew that bringing home our son meant many doctor trips and multiple therapy sessions each week including speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. I knew that he would hit milestones at different times then a typically-developing child. I knew that his speech would be delayed and that I might not hear him say “Momma” or “Daddy” until long after other children had begun using words. I know that if we said yes to this child that we would be busy, but “yes” was the only option for us. To say that was the best “yes” decision we made in our lives would be an understatement, because Caleb has taught me so much about being a mom, being a mom to a child with special needs, and about being a better person.

After we brought Caleb home, I quickly started to learn that there was much that I didn’t know about Down syndrome and that what I did know about it barley scratched the surface. We knew we had a lot of work to do with a brand new infant with special needs, and so we jumped into our new life as it quickly filled up with doctors and therapy appointments. One of the most important early doctors appointments was a visit to the Sie Center for Children with Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado. It was there that I learned about all the things that we had to watch for as his development progressed, and all the possibilities of what could happen as he grew. We learned that children with Down syndrome had many increased medical risks. These can include:

• low muscle tone,

• hearing loss,

• heart defects,

• vision problems,

• sleep apnea,

• spin or hip issues,

• thyroid disorders,

• digestive disorders (Celiac’s disease, Hirschsprung, constipation),

• blood disorders,

• epilepsy (infantile spasms),

• swallowing/feeding problems.

I learned that his teeth would most likely come in a different order, at different times, and some might not come in at all. I also learned that many people with Down syndrome had low immune systems and tend to pick up bugs easier, and for some a common cold can result in a hospital stay. This list would cause any parent to worry. I certainly went into worry hyper-drive when I heard all of this. Some of the things in this list I already knew, but many I did not.

As we dove into therapy, doctor appointments, urgent care stops, meetings with case managers for IFSP’s, and meeting other families in the Down syndrome world, I started to learn to never underestimate my son. I knew that he would reach all his milestones, but I quickly learned to not underestimate what he could do. Somewhere along the way, I started to look at all the things he can do and not what he can’t do. I started to see him for him and not in comparison to what the kids around him were doing. I started to see how much he is going to change the people around him for the better, and hopefully the world. He has taught me how to be an advocate. He has taught me how to assume Ability and not Disability. Most importantly, though, he’s taught me how to be a mom, and we’re so grateful we had the opportunity to say “yes.”

 

Parent Toolkit Nights: Expanding Our Toolkit

By Renee and Russell Schoenbeck; Parents of TLC toddler Riley, age 2

 Riley enjoys painting contact paper with watercolors for a fun sensory activity in her toddler classroom.

Riley enjoys painting contact paper with watercolors for a fun sensory activity in her toddler classroom.

We love TLC. Let’s just throw that right out there. We love the mission. We love the philosophy. We love that we KNOW our daughter’s life is being enriched by her time spent at TLC. So, when opportunities at TLC present themselves, like Parent Toolkit Nights, we are eager to participate. 

Let us explain: Parent Toolkit Nights occur 4-6 times per academic year and are available to parents of students at TLC (prospective parents: this is a wonderful benefit). The Toolkit nights are 60 minutes and are lead by a teacher and a therapist who discuss helpful strategies that are taught in school, then offer ways to incorporate those strategies at home. 

Yes, really. The experts in early childhood education are not only willing to teach your child all day long, but they are also willing to teach YOU how to work with your kid (while providing you with snacks, laughs, and childcare). We feel like we could end this right here and invite you to join us, but let’s press on. 

 Riley and her parents enjoyed the toddler costume party together last October.

Riley and her parents enjoyed the toddler costume party together last October.

Toolkit nights are spent reviewing things like visual schedules, calm down strategies, problem-solving strategies and more, in a way that bridges the gap from school to home, and helps us help our kids with life-long strategies. The strategies help us communicate with our children better, and, heck, even our significant others (because suddenly people become a lot less annoying when they say “Geeze, my engine is running so slowly!”)

The teachers and therapists put a lot of time into these nights, and not only do they have a giveaway (we won timers at the last Toolkit night!), but they always have some kind of project or handout that you can make and take home to begin introducing the strategies at home immediately. This past ToolKit night, we received starter Calm Down Kits, complete with a squishy, chew, and lavender-infused weighted pad.  Not to mention, the evening is filled with other parents who are just as grateful for the information as you are. 

At the last Toolkit night, Miss Jen talked about how the trickle-down effect works with our children within the community. If our kids can learn to self-regulate, self-soothe, communicate effectively, and make good choices, then when they interact with other kids, they model that behavior, and it spreads. How can we set our kids up to be part of this wonderful trickle-down effect? By learning. By being involved. By bridging the gap. By extending the lessons that our children are learning at school, to our home.

We are raising the future, and TLC is setting us up to succeed. I can’t tell you how many times the words “If we had access to these skills when our kids were younger…” have been uttered. We are lucky to have access to this information, and we are lucky to have teachers and therapists willing to dedicate the time to teach us.

We hope you’ll join us for the next Toolkit night on Thursday, April 26, 2018, for some snacks, laughs, and learning. 

P.S. Don’t forget, there is free childcare! 
 

St. Patrick's Day Crafts for Kids

By Laurel Martinez, TLC Teaching Assistant & After School Teacher

You won’t need the luck of the Irish to pull together these five easy and fun St. Patrick’s Day crafts with kids. They’re colorful, kid-tested-teacher-approved, and sure to be a hit with any preschooler when celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.

Pom-Pom Rainbow Craft

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This craft is so simple and requires very little prep. Just find a printable rainbow with a pot of gold at the bottom or draw one yourself! 

What You Will Need:

  • Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple small pom-poms
  • Gold sequins
  • Glue
  • Black marker.

Directions:

Draw or print a rainbow with a pot of gold at the bottom. Use the opportunity to look at pictures of rainbows and talk about the order the colors go in with your child. Have your child place the pom-pom in the corresponding rows and glue them down. Add some gold glitter to the pot of gold and let them color the pot black! Voila - fine Motor Skill practice and color learning all in one!

Shamrock Slime

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This craft is for the preschooler who loves all things slimy. This ooey-gooey shamrock slime is tons-o-fun.

What You Will Need:

  • ½ cup of sater (divided in two)
  •  1/4 cup of clear glue
  • Glitter and shamrock confetti
  •  1/4 teaspoon of borax

Directions:

Get two small bowls and add 1/4 cup of water to each. To one bowl add 1/4 cup of clear glue and sprinkle some glitter and shamrock confetti. In the other bowl add 1/4 teaspoon of borax. Mix each bowl really well. Slowly stir the borax mixture into the glue mixture and watch the slime begin to take shape! Continue stirring until everything is mixed well. Keep your shamrock slime in a sealed container when you’re not playing with it. 

NOTE: Children should never have direct contact with borax! Never leave them unattended while playing with slime!

Beaded Shamrocks

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These beaded shamrocks are a great parent and kid work-together activity as they are a little more involved. It offers great motor skill practice and the supplies can be used over and over again!  

What You Will Need:

  • Pipe Cleaners (I used green sparkly ones)
  • Pony Beads

Directions:

Twist two pipe cleaners together.  Leave them in a straight line. Work together to make your own unique pattern with the beads. Once the patterns are complete fold the pipe cleaners in half. Create one heart shape at the curved end of the folded pipe cleaner. Twist underneath that heart to help it hold its shape.  Fold the remaining edges up and twisted them in the middle. Form them into heart shapes as well. Then, finally, add another pipe cleaner to make the stem of the shamrock. This one is, again, great motor skills practice. Try making some with rainbow pony beads or green and white as well!

Melting Pots of Gold

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Preschoolers love to help, this we know. So how about letting them help the leprechaun find his pot of gold and all his coins. This one requires some prep time but it is worth the fun. 

What You Will Need:

  • Mini Black Pot/Kettle
  • Gold Coins
  • Gold Glitter
  • Jewels in Rainbow Colors
  • Eyedropper and Squeeze Bottle
  • Pennies
  • Container
  • Water

Directions:

To set up this St Patrick’s Day ice melt activity, I recommend you freeze the items in layers. In the first layer freeze the pot of gold (fill with pennies to sink), some jewels, and coins.  Make sure it freezes completely before adding the next layer. Top it all off with some glitter and coins. Allow your child to test which method works better to melt the ice, eye dropper or squeeze bottle. Both are great motor activities. This activity is an easy, fun, and simple science concept as well.  Want to add math skills? Just count the coins together! 

Quilted Paper Shamrocks

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What’s St. Paddy’s Day without some shamrocks? This easy craft is great for a variety of ages and is almost completely mess-proof. 

What You Will Need:

  • Paper in different colors and patterns
  • Green shamrock cut out (use cardstock or heavier for best results)
  • Glue

Directions:

Work on those motor skills once again and allow your preschooler to cut out pieces of paper that they like. Allow them to apply the glue to the precut shamrock (glue sticks work best) and then stick their cutout paper on to the shamrock shape. If some of the paper overlaps the edge of the shamrock just trim it once it is all dry and enjoy! 

These projects are easy and (mostly) no mess. You possibly already have most of the ingredients at home, too! So gather the lads and lassies and get crafting! Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

Valentines Crafts for Kids

By Laurel Martinez, TLC Teaching Assistant & After School Teacher

Valentines is such a fun time to get creative with kids. There's themed art projects, fun snacks, and my personal favorite activity: red glitter playdough. Here are 5, teacher-tested, kid approved Valentines Day crafts for you and your preschooler to do together: 

Valentines Day Crown

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This cute Valentine’s crown can be tailored to fit the interest/involvement level of any kid. Add different stickers, glitter, markers, crayons, etc. Go themed with cute animals, or even use superhero stickers! Let the kids' creativity reign. This craft is so simple and needs very little prep.

What you will need:

  • Adhesive backed foam hearts
  • Poster board
  • Markers/crayons/etc.
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Stapler

Directions:

Cut the poster into strips and let them decorate their headband with markers and stickers. Then twirl up some pink pipe cleaners and staple the whole thing together. So inexpensive and fun. This craft hits fine and gross motor (allow them to try to twirl the pipe cleaner around a pencil, or even allow them to help you staple it together,for older preschoolers). Plus they can wear it and declare themselves Queen/King of Hearts.
 

Heart Shaped Bird Feeder

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For the preschooler who loves all things animals, this heart-shaped Valentine’s Day Bird Feeder is an easy way to combine social responsibility with the ooey-gooey fun of peanut butter.

What You Will Need:

  • Bread
  • Peanut Butter
  • Cookie Cutters (heart-shaped, of course)
  • Bird Seed
  • Twine or string

Directions:

Use the cookie cutters to cut heart shapes out of the bread (this is a great chance to use up any stale bread). You might have to help your child push the cookie cutter all the way through the bread, depending on age and skill level. Use a straw to poke a small hole at the top of each cutout. This is where the twine will go through, so you can hang your bird feeders outside. Use a butter knife to spread the peanut butter on to the bread (this is part of why stale bread is better). This is the messy and fun part for the kids. Then sprinkle the bird seed on to the peanut butter (best to do over a bowl). All that’s left is to string the twine and hang them up outside! So fun and eco-friendly.


Heart Glitter Jars

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Heart Glitter Jars are the perfect sensory valentines project for calming and focusing. These pretty swirly jars are so much fun for kids (and adults) to look at. 

What you will need:

  • Glitter
  • Clean glass bottles or plastic bottles (plastic is safer for younger kiddos)
  • Glitter glue
  • Water
  • Measuring Cup

Directions:

To start, pour most of a red glitter glue bottle into a measuring cup. Then add about the same amount of hot tap water to the cup. Mix everything together until it seems thoroughly mixed. Then pour the glue and water mixture into your bottle of choice. After that, just add a bit of heart glitter. The glitter doesn’t need to be measured – just add whatever you feel like. Easy and fun, not to mention sparkly. 

 

Magic Marbled Milk

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Magic Marbled Milk is pure science fun. Watch your kids' faces light up in amazement as this nifty little experiment. It’s an easy activity that is kid-friendly and clean-up friendly.

What You Will Need:

  • Milk (any kind of milk will do)
  • A bowl, casserole dish, or baking sheet
  • Food Coloring (especially red and pink)
  • Glitter
  • Heart cookie cutters
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Toothpick

Directions:

Place a heart-shaped cookie cutter in a shallow dish or baking sheet. Pour milk into the cookie cutter. It will leak out into the dish, but that’s fine. You don’t need much, just a thin layer that covers the bottom. Squeeze a few drops of food coloring into the milk. Then dip the end of the toothpick into the dish soap and then into the center of one drop of colored milk. Don’t stir it! Watch the color explode and swirl inside the heart. Repeat and enjoy this valentine’s science experiment. 

 

Red Glitter Playdough

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Red Glitter Playdough is another perfect sensory activity for little ones. I love homemade playdough and this no-bake recipe is perfect. Add some lavender essential oil for even more sensory fun.

What you will need:

  • Liquid food colouring
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup Salt
  • 1 tbsp Oil

Directions:

Mix the flour and salt and add the tablespoon of oil. Add the water and mix well. I usually start with a spoon to gather it mostly together then use my hands for the rest. Kids love this part and it’s a great opportunity to include them. Once mixed to desired texture add the glitter and mix again to ensure an even distribution. Add essential oils to preference. This is sure to be asked for over and over.

Note: Want to bring in some literacy? Use masking tape to spell out letters and have children roll out the playdough to spell the letters - this makes great name practice and hits motor skills as well!

 

All of these projects are totally teacher tested and kid approved. They’re super easy and most of the ingredients you probably already have at home! So gather the kids and get crafting! Happy Valentine’s Day!
 

How is Your "Engine" Running?

By Mia Girard, TLC Occupational Therapist & YogaKids Instructor

 Hearing a story together in low lights helps our preschoolers calm their engines after fun and excitement outside.

Hearing a story together in low lights helps our preschoolers calm their engines after fun and excitement outside.

Daily life, even with its routines, can be overwhelming at times. When holidays or other new activities are added to the mix, making it through a week can feel like scaling a mountain. As a parent, there is always a lot to juggle and readjust, such as routines, sleeping habits, meals and days off school. Kids can also struggle with maintaining a consistent routine and adapting to changes, and while I know my children love excitement, they also do better with a consistent routine. As much as I love to travel, plan something fun for a weekend, and celebrate holidays with my family, the demands of juggling all the to-do’s can cause me to feel more scattered, forgetful and stressed….so my ‘engine’ tends to run fast!  What is she talking about with this ‘engine’ thing, you say? 

How Does Your Engine Run?, The Alert Program for Self-Regulation by Mary Sue Williams & Sherry Shellenberger uses the following analogy: “If your body is like a car engine, sometimes it runs on high (fast), sometimes it runs slow (low), and sometimes it runs just right.”

Interestingly, these three engine speeds normally occur throughout a given day, and no one way is right or wrong to feel. I can only go to sleep once my engine has begun to ‘slow’ before bedtime, and I do better in a high-paced yoga class when my engine runs ‘fast.’  I have learned that my engine needs to be running ‘just right’ to focus and to be the most present in the moment. The goal of this great program is to help children to learn a common language to describe their level of alertness.

When  ‘engines are running fast’ we may:
•    feel busy inside,
•    have a lot of energy,
•    want to move around and have a hard time sitting still,
•    And find it is hard to pay attention when we are running ‘fast’.

On the other hand, when  ‘engines are running slow’, we may:
•    have a hard time getting our bodies going,
•    feel sleepy inside,
•    want to rest and hold our head in our hands
•    And also have a hard time focusing or paying attention.

When  ‘engines are running just right’ we:
•    do our best talking, listening, learning and playing,
•    find it easy to focus and pay attention to what is going on around us.

In my household, to help with communication, understanding of stress levels and remaining as calm as possible, I frequently talk about my engine speed and how or why it changes. I can change it with a warm tea, a brisk walk, or accidentally setting off the smoke alarm.  I talk about exploring calming, organizing, or energizing sensory strategies using my movement, my mouth, touch, eyes, and ears.  My goal, and the goal of the program, is to expose my children to language that helps them to talk about and understand their body’s engine better. I also want children to know that while life can be stressful, we all use strategies to help with self-regulation (becoming more calm or alert). We all have our own preferred sensory strategies and use them, many times without even realizing it!
 
So, think about what makes your engine run too fast, too slow or just right, AND what changes it. Changes in routine? Jarring, loud noises? Somebody standing too close? Swinging in a hammock for hours? A warm cup of tea? Sitting for a mindful minute or two of deep breathing? And when your dog’s barking is making your engine run fast, causing you to be distracted, share that experience with your child! When you’ve taken a long quiet warm bath and your engine has slowed down before bedtime, talk about that too! This will help you to see how sensory events (e.g. your dog’s barking) and sensory strategies (e.g. mindful deep breathing) play a part in your life. It will help your child if you can talk about your engine, and share or model using your own strategies to alert or calm yourself so that they can learn this important skill from you, too!

What helps your engine run just right? 
 

Letting Wait Time Happen

By Kathy Keith, TLC Occupational Therapist

 Kathy plays with a toddler during class.

Kathy plays with a toddler during class.

As an OT, I have gained much wisdom from the co-treatments I get to have with my friends, the TLC speech therapists. By working as a team with the speech therapists, I have learned more about the kiddos I work with as well as myself. In one area in particular, the growth has not only been tremendously beneficial for me but also challenging.  

Let’s start with the fact that I can be a little bit of a talker. I love to encourage, give praise, give direction (and sometimes re-direction) and can do so in a highly animated way. All great, but sometimes overwhelming for the listener. I have realized that sometimes I am so busy filling quiet spaces that I am not giving the child ample time and space to process and react to what is being said. So one thing that I have had to learn and practice is the art of WAIT TIME.  

Some kiddos can process all of the information and flurry of activity that we give them more quickly, while others need some time to take in the information, process it, and then do something with it. Innately, I know this; I talk about the importance of processing time frequently. Putting it into practice can be a little harder. The bottom line is that we all benefit from having some space and time to act.

“Go get your shoes,” or “I wonder what color that is?” or “Let me see you jump!” or “ready, set…….”  The recommended wait time before encouraging a response is around five seconds.  Five seconds? That doesn’t sound like much. However, when really giving wait time to a child (or adult), it can feel like an ETERNITY of quiet when you're waiting for a response. The response you're waiting on could be following a direction, answering a question, making a comment, or making a choice.  

One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one thousand five….

What I have found is that the challenge with wait time is my own challenge, and that if I do not choose to fill in the spaces with more information or by rephrasing the direction I just gave, it allows time for the response I am looking for as well as other productive and creative things to emerge. My advice, then, is to try to remember to always count to five when waiting for a response from a child you're interacting with. Sometimes, if we give them the space to think and process, they'll surprise you with the wonderful thoughts and ideas that go through their minds ...if we give them space and quiet to let those thoughts form.
 

Take Advantage of 2017 Tax Credits for End of Year Giving

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Dear Friends,

As a friend and supporter of TLC Learning Center, you know that our mission is to provide, in a fiscally responsible manner, comprehensive early childhood education and therapeutic services to assist each child in reaching his or her highest potential. In order to meet our mission, we rely on the generosity of the members of our community for support.

On December 22, 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law and will go into effect on January 1, 2018. The bill will significantly increase the standard deduction in 2018 and future years, and because of this, fewer of our donors will receive a federal income tax deduction for charitable giving. We have summarized a few points below to help you decide if it makes sense for your family to make a donation to TLC before December 31, 2017:

•    Donate before year-end to maximize your 2017 tax deduction - If you donate to TLC before the close of business on December 31, 2017, your donation will be deductible on your 2017 tax return before the new tax bill goes into effect in 2018.  
•    Donor Advised Funds - You are allowed to take a charitable donation deduction on your 2017 tax return by putting money or stock into a donor advised fund for future donations to TLC. Simply open an account with your wealth manager or online brokerage, fund it before December 31, 2017, and you will be able to deduct this amount on your 2017 tax return. This account can be used to make your future donations to TLC. Learn more about donor advised funds and strategies to maximize your charitable giving deductions in this article from the New York Times.
•    Double your benefit by donating appreciated stock – If you transfer appreciated stock to your donor advised fund or directly to TLC, your charitable donation deduction is the fair market of the stock at the time of the donation. You are allowed a deduction for the appreciated value of marketable securities, rather than your cost basis, which could significantly increase your donation deduction and avoid paying tax on your capital gain. 
•    Colorado Child Care Tax Credit – A donation to TLC qualifies for the Colorado Child Care Tax Credit. The credit is equal to 50% of your donation and reduces your Colorado income tax liability dollar for dollar on annual donations of $100,000 or less. Any unused credits carry forward up to 5 years. The Colorado credit is not impacted by the new tax bill, so we expect the credit to be available in future years as well. 

Please consult your tax advisor prior to making any charitable contributions. This is intended for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as tax advice.

Thank you again for everything you do to support TLC Learning Center and to give back to those in need! And thank you for taking the time to consider making a year-end donation to TLC to help support our program! Your gift is very much appreciated.

Sincerely,

Matt Eldred
TLC Executive Director
 

Please Vote "Yes" on 1A This November

A special message from Bobbie Watson, Executive Director, The Early Childhood Council of Boulder County:

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The County Commissioners have put a ballot measure on this fall called Worthy Cause IV, an extension of a 0.05% countywide sales and use tax which was first passed by Boulder County voters in 2000. These funds are used to provide non-profit safety net providers with funds for ‘bricks and mortar’-that is to either buy new buildings and/or expand/renovate existing buildings. I know that many of you are aware of programs who have benefited from these funds including: 

  • The OUR Center
  • The Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center
  • The Homeless Shelter
  • The Wild Plum Center in Longmont
  • Clinic Campesina
  • The Boulder Safehouse
  • EFAA, and many others.  

There con tinues to be increasing demands on all of our safety net providers. You may recall the Neighbors Helping Neighbors campaign in 2014 which passed with broad approval. Those funds go to support safety net program costs like salaries, program materials, etc. But our non-profit partners also need have up-to-date facilities in which to provide their programs.

That is why I am urging you to support Worthy Cause IV. The Early Childhood Council of Boulder County Board has endorsed this ballot measure. This extension would go until Dec 31, 2033, and revenues would be used in the following manner:

I urge you to continue to support your neighbors in Boulder County. Please vote YES on ballot measure 1A.
 

 
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Teaching Babies to Self-Regulate Themselves to Sleep

 When you're this little, even a toy cubby makes a good space to curl up for a nap.

When you're this little, even a toy cubby makes a good space to curl up for a nap.

;By Shari Karmen, TLC Therapeutic Services Manager & Occupational Therapist

Sleep is so important to our everyday wellbeing. Babies, children, and adults all need sleep, along with food, to be self-regulated. Self-regulation is the ability to manage emotions and control body functions as well as maintain focus and attention. Self-regulation happens differently over the many stages of our lifespan. Self-regulation in an infant encompasses how an infant deals with a disruption (for example, a loud television) and regains control of their behavior so they can focus on what they're doing (nursing, eating, playing, etc.). In a preschooler self-regulation looks at how a child plays with others, learns to share and take turns.

If a child doesn’t have a healthy sleep and waking pattern, it makes it hard for them to learn. In babies we tend to see two issues with sleep that can cause problems with self-regulation:

1.    Fragmented sleep – many short periods of sleep, but not good long sleep cycles and

2.    Too much sleep, especially during the day. This frequently suggests a developmental issue. Daytime is when sensory stimulation occurs and the sleeping baby is not stimulated.

Parents and caregivers play a vital role in how babies learn to sleep. The amount of support given in the beginning impacts how much caregiver involvement is needed later on. This means if we teach babies early how to fall asleep in a healthy, self-regulating manner, the better off they are for sleep learning. It’s important for the caregiver to recognize:

–   Their decreased role in helping a baby to sleep;

–   Recognizing sleep cues and conditioning;

–   The infant's ability to self-regulate.

Having a consistent place to sleep is another important key to sleeping. Young infants have few self-regulatory behaviors, but as we teach them self-soothing techniques – pacifier, lovey – they become more competent self-soothers. Crying it out doesn’t work because babies don’t have the skills to self-regulate, calm, and then fall asleep on their own.

In the first few months of life babies show clear signs of sleepiness:

–   Yawning

–   Glazed eyes

–   Rubbing eyes

–   Heavy eyelids

–   Decreased sucking during feeding

–   No, or less, interest in interacting

–   Turning away from stimulation in the environment

–   Body movements become less organized

–   Fussy behavior

It’s important to recognize these cues and respond to them while the “sleep gate” is open. If you don’t catch the sleep cues within 15 minutes, “tired is wired.”

Place a drowsy baby in the crib and stay close by without touching the baby. A self-regulating baby will suck fingers, look around and then fall asleep. If the baby cries, wait for a time and then approach with a comforting voice.

If your baby continues to cry, approach and pat, but don’t pick up. Provide reassurance with your voice. If crying persists, re-enter the sleeping area with a “boring” visit. Stand close by, but don’t interact with the baby.

Encourage naps when babies are full. It’s easier to fall asleep with a full belly rather than after a baby has been stimulated with play. Between 6-8 months separation anxiety is heightened so parents are encouraged to move baby out of their room before this period if they are sharing a room.

Routines create predictable patterns. Babies with bedtime routines develop into toddlers and preschoolers with predictable bedtime routines. Sleep in the same location every night. Start to power down an hour before bedtime. Read books, play soft music, have a small snack, and other calming activities are pieces you can add to a bedtime routine.  Developing a consistent bedtime routine is key!

Happy sleeping!

Read more about cultivating healthy sleep habits in children:

Zzz! The Active “Sleeping” Brain 

By Brenda Lord, TLC Preschool Teacher

 Sometimes you're too tired to even make it onto your nap mat before Zzz

Sometimes you're too tired to even make it onto your nap mat before Zzz

Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are busy people. Parents and teachers alike know that young children can be constantly in motion as they learn to move through and explore the world around them. As children are engaging with their surroundings, their brains are flooded with new information. We all know that sleep is important, and many assume that sleep is critical for resting our bodies, especially for active toddlers. However, research indicates that this is not the case. 

Building Brains

Surprisingly, the brain is more active when one is sleeping than awake! When young children and adults are sleeping, their brains are busy building and strengthening connections within the brain. Words, movements, and ideas that are introduced to children while they are awake get built into more permanent knowledge while they are asleep. If children or adults are deprived of sleep, research indicates that learning simply can’t happen. Also, when you are tired, your brain is not as good at filtering out distractions and focusing on tasks. Loss of sleep in both children and adults hurts attention, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and physical movement. 

Naps improve the brain’s day to day performance. These short bursts of sleep are critical for developing bodies and brains. The information from children’s rich and social learning environments in the mornings can be solidified into lasting memories during their afternoon naps. 

Creating Good Sleepers at Home

Many children thrive on routines and structure. Recognizing this, the TLC classrooms have well-established routines around quiet time. Children are used to having quiet time at the same time each day in a darkened environment with cozy blankets and relaxing music. Their bodies become accustomed to slowing down at this designated time. Establishing nighttime routines at home might make evenings more relaxed and getting children to sleep more successful. Taking baths, reading books, and snuggling together might be part of your bedtime routines. In addition, deep pressure exercises and calming yoga poses can be effective at quieting young bodies. Doctors also recommend that children should not have any screen time—computers, TV, video games, cell phones—at least an hour before bedtime. These video screens produce blue light which affects melatonin production, a hormone that signals your body that it is time to sleep. Creating and sticking to structured bedtime routines is important for helping children establish positive, lifelong sleeping habits. 

Napping is for Everyone!

Lastly, some great news for adults! Those naps that we envy our wobblers and toddlers taking are just as productive and valuable for adults. In one study, a 26-minute nap improved NASA pilots’ performance by 34 percent. Unlike our children, adults, unfortunately, are rarely able to have an afternoon snooze. Even though biologically our brains are programmed to slow down between 2-4 pm, work schedules and the realities of life usually make naps prohibitive. When you get the afternoon slump, recognize that this is normal. Nap if you are able; otherwise, try not to schedule important meetings at 3 p.m. Your body will thank you.