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Grand Advice and Creative Play Stations

Q: We have a 3-year-old with a typically short attention span.Both my husband and i work outside the home. The hour before dinner is so hectic, we are trying to get the meal on the table, return phone calls, check mail, and check in with one another. All the while, our 3-yearold desperately wants our attention.I understand her need to be with us, but if we could just buy a little time, the entire evening would fl ow more smoothly. Do you have any ideas as to how we can keep her happy and still get things done?

A: This has got to be one of the biggest challenges of a twocareer family, but I do have some ideas. Now that summer is here with warmer weather, it’s the perfect time to create a water or sensory table at home.Water-play is great fun, almost cost-free and allows for lots of creativity. Sensory stimulation through water-play is known to stimulate the brain in young children and you can present it in many different ways to keep up the interest of your 3-year-old.

You might start with a shallow basin, some funnels, turkey basters, measuring cups, wooden spoons, or anything else you have in the kitchen. Try spray bottles and paintbrushes too. Consider adding some ice cubes or food coloring to spruce it up a bit. At other times you could add boats, seashells, or plastic fish. Add some objects that sink and some that fl oat. Mix it up from day to day. The same tub can be used with sand, rice, or a mixture of water and cornstarch. The latter forms a suspension that has a very interesting texture kids love.

This should buy you 15 or 20 precious minutes at that difficult time of day. Just make sure when water is involved that you are nearby to supervise and that no container is large enough to hold a substantial amount of water. You might consider placing the play station on the deck or back porch.

Q: I love my in-laws, but they do seem to give a lot of unsolicited parenting advice.Our 2-year-old is not yet toilet-trained and my mother-in-law is bugging us to get this done. She says that my husband, her son, was trained at 18 months. Is that even possible?

A: While it seems unlikely that your husband was toilet-trained at that young age, there is a chance, as parents of that generation helped children achieve this milestone much earlier. But let’s address the larger issue of your relationship with your in-laws. I think you have two choices depending on your level of comfort with your in-laws. If you are close and have an open relationship, I would suggest meeting with your mother-in-law for lunch to have a little chat. Tell her that you love and respect her and you know that her advice comes from a place of love and concern, but that you may have different parenting styles and that you would ask that she respect your way of doing things.

If this conversation seems unrealistic, I would simply listen when she gives advice but say nothing and continue to do what you feel is right. Avoid confrontation and do not become defensive. Just carry on and eventually she should get the message. Because we have heard from so many of you about this exact issue, we are offering a class for grandparents called Heart to Heart for Grandparents. We will talk about communication skills, and most importantly when to speak up and when to stay silent. Look for the class on our website and suggest it for your in-laws.

Susan Brown holds a master’s degree in developmental psychology, as well as degrees in early childhood education and psychology. A mother, teacher, children’s book author, and nationally known family educator, she works with clients at Everyday Parenting Solutions.
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