Monday, November 11, 2013

Purposeful Parenting: Develop Routines to Stimulate Your Child and You

"Bicycling" your baby's legs help fine tune his or her gross motor skills at an age where s/he can't work on them themselves.
Within a month after Bug was born, I was desperate to get into a routine. I was in a weird temporary state - Jason was fully back to work, but I was not. So any routine I set up, I knew it would be temporary. Now that I'm staying home with Bug, I've settled into a very nice routine that often includes naps with my Bug.

There are little routines you can set up that will satisfy a need for normalcy and stability and stimulate your child whether or not you're in a temporary state of life or a stable one. One routine I love, love, love is praying with and for Bug during most feedings. I keep a list of people/places/etc. that I'm actively praying for on my computer desktop {and in a pinch, I can remember most of the people/places/etc. on this list if I am not near my computer}, and first, I pray for all of those people. Then, I pray for our family: Jason, me, Bug. Then, I pray for Bug's future husband. I also take time to thank God for the work He's doing in our lives. I love this routine because it's already introducing Bug to God and prayer. I pray out loud and right near her ear in a quiet voice so she can hear me.

Another routine we developed that we all love is working on Bug's gross motor skills after most diaper changes. First, we start with "biking" - bicycling her legs for her. Jason also does running, walking, hop skipping - you name it. If you haven't caught on yet, he loves doing these with Bug. Then, we move onto "swimming" - the front crawl, doggie paddle, back stroke, butterfly. Jason also throws in a little YMCA. Bug really enjoys these exercises and gets a big 'ol smile on her face when we do them. We did these exercises for the first six or so months of her life.

For a bedtime routine, it's a bit difficult to set one up when they're not getting a bath every night. In general, babies should not be bathed every day. We started with bathing Bug twice a week, and when she was about 3 months old, we upped it to three times a week. On bath nights, we bathe her, feed her, read her a story and lay her in bed next to me until she's asleep. We did this for about the first six months of her life. On non-bath nights, we feed her, read her a story, lay her in bed next to me... and feed her again as necessary. A bath really helps get her ready for bed - she loves, loves, loves baths. It's so soothing, calming and fun for her. I'd bathe her every day if I could, but she's just not there yet in terms of her skin being ready and all that.

After Bug was about six months old, we developed a new routine. Each day at dinner, Bug gets to sit in her high chair and participate in dinner. She enjoys noodles, green beans and steak best. After dinner, she goes on her potty. Then, if it's a bath night, it's bath time. After bath, it's straight to bed. If she's not quite tired yet, we play in her room together until she tells me it's time {she'll give me cues, she can't actually speak yet}.

We don't have a daily routine, although Bug has been working on getting on a sleep schedule. At around 3 months, she sleot from about 9 PM to 9:30 AM every day {waking for feedings and some active time, but very little}. She slept from about 11 to 1, then was very active from 1 to 5 PM. She took a short nap around 5, often waking by 6:30. Then, she was up time until bedtime.

Bug is about eight months old now and her routine has really solidified. She wakes up anywhere from 7:30 to 8:30 in the morning and takes a nap around 11 or 12:30. She falls asleep every night between 6:30 and 8. It just depends on what we did that day as to what time she goes to sleep. A busier day means an earlier bed time. Just yesterday, we had a very non-busy day. She fell asleep shortly before 7. She has fallen asleep by 6:45 before (and even once right at 6).

Routines are so crucial to a little one. Littles need something they can depend on - something more than you. They need to know what's happening when. It calms their minds and bodies. It doesn't mean you can't have spontaneous fun. Certainly, not every day is the same around here. We might go grocery shopping for several hours one day. When that happens, we just work with Bug. We encourage her to sleep if it will be during a nap time. We might bring a book, a stuffed animal, whatever we think will help her stick to her own routine. And if she's really not feeling her routine, that's okay. We'll fly by the seat of our pants!

A life with littles is one that will be crazy, no matter what you do. I think that's generally part of the fun. But developing routines where you can will save your sanity and help your child grow into a healthy, responsible individual.

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