All posts by Molly Ploe

About Molly Ploe

Molly Ploe comes from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and enjoys hiking, baking and reading. Her favorite Saturday is rainy with bread in the oven and a new book.

a selection of baby food ingredients

3 Healthy, Homemade Baby Food Recipes

As a new parent, you’ve likely considered making your own baby food at home. Many parents are taking this route in order to have full control over the ingredients, vitamins and minerals babies intake. And with gadgets and appliances made specifically for this purpose, making your own baby food at home is easier than ever.

Best of all, you don’t have to be an expert chef to make something that’s delicious and healthy. As long as your baby is four to six months old, and has met certain developmental milestones recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, you can start whipping up some of these mouthwatering, homemade baby food recipes:

1) Purees for four- to six-month-olds

As Cooking Light contributor and registered dietician Carolyn Land Williams noted, single-ingredient fruit or vegetable purees are perfect for babies younger than seven months old. When introducing solid foods like this for the first time, it’s important to make bigger batches of purees so you can serve the same food to your baby for four days to a week. This gives you time to watch for any signs of allergy or discomfort. Once you understand what your baby likes and what he or she can digest easily, you can move on to another, single-ingredient puree until baby has tried a range of grains, fruits and vegetables.

Some of the best single-ingredient purees include:

  • Carrots.
  • Bananas.
  • Avocados.
  • Green peas.
  • Butternut squash.

These vitamin-rich choices are mild and just a tad bit sweet, encouraging baby to try and enjoy. While bananas and avocado typically puree pretty well on their own, you may want to add a bit of liquid to any puree you’re making for babies under six months old until they are near a liquid consistency. Thinning the mixture down with a bit of water or breast milk will help with digestion.

Baby being fed with spoon. Making your own baby food at home gives you full control over the ingredients your baby eats.

2) Thicker, more complex purees for seven- to nine-month-olds

Once your baby has passed the six-month mark, you can begin changing up his or her diet with purees that are a little bit thicker and have more than one ingredient. As with the single-ingredient purees, though, it’s important to introduce new foods one at a time and serve them for several days in a row so you can see what baby likes and what might upset his or her small tummy.

Some combinations to consider here include:

  • Pumpkin and thyme.
  • Beets and blueberry.
  • Spinach and white yams.
  • Avocado and banana.
  • Butternut squash and pear.

Best of all, these purees lend themselves well to freezing, so you can prepare a bigger batch, freeze individual servings and thaw as needed. Check out these and other puree recipes here from HealthLine.

3) A classic: Homemade rice cereal

This is one of the first solid foods that many parents feed their little ones, but many store-bought brands are processed and fortified, meaning that vitamins stripped out during processing are put back in. Parents that prefer more natural, whole ingredients can make their own baby rice cereal at home.

As The Vintage Mixer pointed out, homemade rice cereal for babies – especially recipes that use healthier, brown rice – includes a lot of nutrients. And while it’s a bit time-consuming to make, it’s incredibly cost-effective.

All you have to do is take your store-bought brown rice and put it into your blender or food processor until the rice is turned into a powder. Then, you can prepare as usual over the stovetop using your regular formula or breast milk. Check out The Vintage Mixer’s baby rice cereal recipe here.

Molly Ploe comes from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and enjoys hiking, baking and reading. Her favorite Saturday is rainy with bread in the oven and a new book.

Mother hands changing baby nappy. Mother putting diaper on her hispanic son lying in nursery. Close up of mother giving baby diaper change at home.

What That Dirty Diaper Says About Your Baby

As a new parent, you likely spend more time at your changing table than you might have anticipated. And while this may be your least favorite task, it’s surely one of the most important.

As Dr. Bryan Vartabedian, pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children’s Hospital, told Parents Magazine, many parents become concerned about the contents of baby’s soiled diapers. There are signs that can point to health issues and may require you to check in with your pediatrician, but there are also things that may appear weird, but are actually totally normal.

Let’s take a moment to explore the things you can learn from baby’s changing time.

How many changes is normal?

One frequently asked question by new parents surrounds the number of times they should change their little one each day. This is certainly a valid question, as a lack of soiled diapers could point to issues like dehydration and digestive problems, or could even be a sign that baby isn’t getting a sufficient amount to eat and drink every day.

As New Kids Center pointed out, newborns under the age of one month will see as many as 10 to 12 diaper changes a day. Once baby surpasses the one-month mark, and through the five month mark, the number of daily changes will go down to eight to 10. Overall, new parents can expect to use 320 diapers within the first month, and 240 or so for each month through about the first year.

At the same time, though, pediatrician Dr. Tanya Remer Altmann told Parents Magazine that it’s important not to fixate too much on the number of changes a day.

“As long as your baby is eating well and has been growing steadily, parents can relax,” Remer Altmann said.

African American mom with baby on changing table, baby wearing a diaper. Changing your baby’s diaper can actually tell you quite a bit about your little one’s health.

Baby’s waste: What’s normal?

While not the most pleasant of things, your baby’s poop can tell you a lot about his or her health. As Parents Magazine contributor Kaitlin Bell pointed out, parents of brand new babies might notice dark and sticky waste during the first week – this is totally normal and will change as your newborn grows.

Breastfed babies may have yellow, seedy and even runny poop after their first week. Babies on formula, on the other hand, will likely have tan, soft stool. This is all normal and nothing to worry about. Again, baby’s waste will change in color and texture as he or she grows and once your little one starts eating more complex, solid foods.

While green stool typically worries new parents, Bell noted that this is nothing to be concerned about. This is simply a sign of things moving through baby’s digestive tract at a faster pace than usual.

Once baby begins eating solid foods, parents will notice that waste is firmer and will likely have a more pungent smell. This is all normal and comes with the changing of baby’s diet.

It’s also important to keep in mind that different colored stool – including things like orange and yellow waste – could be a result of what foods baby is eating and shouldn’t be cause for concern.

When to contact your pediatrician

There are also certain things that new parents should look out for, and, if spotted, should reach out to their pediatrician to make sure baby is happy and healthy. This includes signs like:

  • Dark red or black stool: Red stool could be a result of baby’s diet – if she ate something with tomatoes in it or drank fruit punch, for example. This, however, could also be a signal of gastrointestinal bleeding or distress or even a milk allergy. If you notice red streaks in baby’s diaper, it’s best to reach out to your doctor.
  • White, chalky stool: As the Cleveland Clinic explained, this type of waste could be a sign that baby is not appropriately producing bile, which could be connected to liver or gallbladder problems. Schedule an appointment with your pediatrician as soon as possible.
  • Constipation: If you notice small, hard poops, or if baby struggles more than usual, it could be a sign of constipation. Infants usually get constipated when they don’t have enough fluids. If you’re breastfeeding, you may want to consider nursing more. Parents should check that formula-fed babies have enough water mixed in and may consider giving more formula than usual to help with constipation.
  • Diarrhea: This can be hard to diagnose, especially in infants, but pediatricians note that if baby’s stool is much more watery than usual, or if baby has more frequent bowel movements, it could be a sign of diarrhea. This issue is serious, as babies can quickly lose fluids and become dehydrated. If you notice signs of diarrhea, or if your baby has a dry mouth, doesn’t produce urine for eight hours or more, or cries without tears, contact your doctor.

There’s a lot your baby’s dirty diaper can tell you. While not the rosiest of tasks, keeping an eye out for certain signs can help you make sure your baby is healthy and content.

Molly Ploe comes from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and enjoys hiking, baking and reading. Her favorite Saturday is rainy with bread in the oven and a new book.

Babygirl and babyboy sitting on the beach in straw hats

How To Keep Your Baby Safe This Summer

The long, sunny days of summer are fun to spend outside with your friends and family. But for your baby, fun in the sun can become dangerous. Summer safety for your baby begins with ample sun and heat protection.

Babies’ bodies haven’t quite mastered the art of temperature regulation, so it’s easy for little ones to overheat. Plus, their baby-soft skin hasn’t endured sun exposure yet, making them a prime candidate for a bad sunburn. To prevent pain and potential illness for your baby, it’s important to understand how to stay safe in the sun.

Play it safe in the shade

When babies are born, their skin has very little melanin, which is the natural substance your body produces that determines your skin color and offers some sun protection, the Skin Cancer Foundation explained. Since babies are still developing melanin, their skin isn’t yet ready to be sunkissed. As such, parents should do their best to keep the rays off their little one’s arms, legs and face.

If your child loves to play outside, be sure to provide some shade. Whether it’s the canopy of the stroller on your afternoon walk or an oversize umbrella to bring to the beach, providing shade is one of the best ways you can protect your baby from the sun.

Two moms push strollers with their canopies providing sun for their babies.Stroller canopies provide sun protection while on your walks.

The outfits you choose for your infant can also help. It might seem counterintuitive to pick out long pants and long-sleeved shirts for your baby on a bright summer day, but these are best to offer greater protection against the sun. Just be sure to choose lightweight, breathable fabrics.

In addition, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses protect them from the sun. Your eyes also have melanin that helps to protect against painful sunburn, but your baby is lacking this benefit. Seek out shades that protect your baby’s eyes from UV rays. Baby sunglasses often have a soft strap that keeps them propped over their eyes.

When should babies use sunscreen?

Since your baby’s skin is so sensitive to the sun, it may seem like applying sunscreen is an obvious method of protection. In reality, though, many experts recommend against this, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Babies’ skin is less mature compared to adults, and infants have a higher surface-area to body-weight ratio compared to older children and adults,” explained Dr. Hari Cheryl Sachs, a pediatrician at the FDA. “Both these factors mean that an infant’s exposure to the chemicals in sunscreens may be much greater, increasing the risk of side effects from the sunscreen.”

Once your baby reaches the six-month mark, you can begin seeking out appropriate sunscreens, but it’s best to do this with the advice of your pediatrician.

Before buying a bottle of sunscreen, check the ingredients label. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends opting for formulas that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide because they generally are less likely to cause a skin reaction. Just to be sure, though, test a small amount on your baby’s wrist to see if it’s a good match. If you see a rash or other type or reaction form, find a different product.

When applying sunscreen to your baby, be sure to get all surfaces of exposed skin, including ears, neck and hands. If you’re using spray-on sunscreen, spray it into the palm of your hand before rubbing it onto her face. Finally, sunscreen should not replace basic sun protection, like long sleeves, hats and ample shade.

How to avoid heat stress

Sunburn isn’t the only danger to infants during the summer. Babies can quickly overheat because their bodies don’t regulate temperature or produce sweat as much as adults do.

Keep your baby hydrated, and monitor her skin and behavior for signs of heat cramps, exhaustion or stroke. These conditions can become very serious but aren’t as easy to identify in babies as they are in adults.

Get out of the sun and heat if your baby:

Go directly to the emergency room if your baby:

  • Is dehydrated – look for very little or dark yellow urine or dry mouth.
  • Has a fever or dizziness, even after drinking fluids for more than 2 hours.
  • Is vomiting that prevents him from drinking fluids.
  • Is younger than 12 weeks and has a fever or is not acting normally after heat exposure.

Call 911 if your baby:

  • Shows signs of shock, including gray, cool skin.
  • Has a fever of 105 degrees Fahrenheit or more (rectal temperature is most accurate for this).
  • Can’t wake up.
  • Acts confused.
  • Has a seizure.

Having fun in the sun is one of the best aspects of summer, but this must be done safely. By following these summer safety tips to protect your little one from sunburn and heatstroke, you can safely enjoy the warm weather.

Molly Ploe comes from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and enjoys hiking, baking and reading. Her favorite Saturday is rainy with bread in the oven and a new book.

a baby playing outside in the summer

How To Enjoy The Shade With Your Baby

When the weather is sunny and warm, it’s tempting to go outside and soak up the rays. But for babies younger than 6 months old, it’s best to stay out of the sunshine.

Infants are still developing their natural sun protectant melanin, which means they’re very susceptible to sunburn, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. As such, it’s best to keep them shaded as much as possible for the first six months of life and to limit exposure during their first few years.

Just because your baby should be kept away from rays doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the great outdoors with her, though. With the help of a shady tree, a large umbrella or a covering pavilion, you and your little one can have fun out of the sun.

Here are four fun things to do with a baby in the summer shade:

1. Paint with ice cubes

Ice cubes are a nice, cool way to introduce your baby to new textures and sensations. He’ll enjoy feeling the cold ice on his hands on a hot day. If you color the ice cubes with food coloring, flavored drink mix or paint, your ice cubes will be colorful and fun to play with.

Bring a white poster board outside with you and let your baby push the colored ice cubes around on it. As they melt, they’ll leave colorful trails behind, mixing and blending into a unique scene, Jaclyn Anne Shimmel, mother and author of the blog Crayons & Cravings, explained. For Shimmel’s son, it was fun to chase the slippery ice cubes and squeeze the melting blocks.

2. Play with bubbles

A baby chases after bubbles.Blow some bubbles for your baby this summer.

To a baby, bubbles are magical. They are formed suddenly out of seemingly nothing, and they float away quickly. Babies love to reach out and pop them. Buy some bubble mix or make some of your own. For a DIY version, mix light corn syrup with dish soap in a bucket, then add water, Home Science Tools recommended. Use large bubble wands or straws to form your bubbles.

The corn syrup in this recipe makes a thicker soap barrier, helping the bubbles grow larger and resist popping better.

3. Jell-O dig

Jell-O is a delicious dessert, but it’s also a fun way to make playtime more engaging. For a delightfully sloppy activity, make a big bowl of Jell-O and set your baby’s favorite toys inside, Columbia SC Moms Blog suggested. Be sure to choose hard plastic toys, as the Jell-O can stain fabric. When the mixture has gelled, bring the bowl, your baby and a towel outside and let her re-discover her toys. She’ll dig through the Jell-O to find her toys (and probably eat some in the process), then will feel excited and accomplished when she finally pulls it out of the solution. This activity will result in a sticky mess, so it’s perfect for outdoor fun.

4. Sensory bin

Sensory bins are great ways to introduce your little one to new textures. For summertime fun, it’s easy to create a portable bin that you can take into your backyard, to a park or to the beach. Use a large plastic tub with a lid, and fill it with rice, dry pasta, sand or even water. Then, add in anything you like. Choose large, grabbable toys, smooth stones, plastic flowers or cups she can use to scoop up the water whatever is in the bin.

The many things she can pick up, move around and touch will provide plenty of entertainment. Be sure to use age-appropriate items in your sensory bin, and always keep an eye on your little one to make sure she’s not eating the sand or dumping it out.

Your young baby isn’t quite old enough to enjoy the sunshine, but fun in the shade is a safe way to spend your summer.

Molly Ploe comes from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and enjoys hiking, baking and reading. Her favorite Saturday is rainy with bread in the oven and a new book.

Portrait of happy little african girl doing thumbs up sign outdoors.

10 Winning Baby Names You Haven’t Considered Yet

Choosing the perfect name for your baby might feel like a big responsibility. You may want something beautiful and meaningful but not too common. Perhaps a simple pronunciation is important for you so your child doesn’t have to correct every teacher on the first day of school, or an easy spelling so she can learn to write her name early on.

Whatever your top priorities are in a baby name, chances are you’ve scoured lists of popular monikers and pages of family history to find the right title for your new baby. Here’s one more for your research; these 10 names are unique but meaningful, and might just be the ideal name for your new baby. Plus, many of them work for both boys and girls.

1. Ishi

If you want a name that’s truly multicultural, you can’t go wrong with Ishi. The name appears in Japanese, Hindu, Native American Yahi and Hebrew cultures, though with very different meanings.

In Japanese, Ishi is a female name that means “stone.” Additionally, many people learned Ishi was the last Yahi man, a subgroup of the Yana Indians who lived in Northern California, according to the University of California Berkeley.

In Hindu culture, Ishi is another name for the Goddess Durga, a warrior goddess who fights evil influences. Finally, Ishi appears in the bible several times, most often associated with “salvation.”

2. Nola

Nola may have been introduced as a nickname for Fionnuala, Enola, Magnolia (or even New Orleans), but this simple, sweet name works well on its own, too. It has Irish roots, meaning “little fair-shouldered one.” It’s also a city in Italy near Naples.

3. Juniper

Juniper is the name of a small, evergreen shrub. The name is derived from the Latin “junio,” meaning “youth,” and “parere,” meaning “to produce.” Put together, Juniper is one who’s always producing youth – the perfect name for an evergreen or someone who will always be young at heart.

4. Collins

Collins can either be a boy’s or a girl’s name, and it means “a win for the people.” One famous example of the use of Collins as a first name is Collins Tuohy, the sister of football star Michael Oher, as shown in the 2006 biography, “The Blind Side.”

5. Roman

Roman has a regal sound to it, and though it’s classically a boy’s name, it could also make for a unique yet powerful girl’s name.

6. Elliott

Another traditionally male name that’s also awesome for baby girls, Elliott has biblical roots as well as French ties. The name is also associated with famed poet T.S. Eliot.

7. Haskell

Haskell is a unique unisex name that means “wisdom.” One influential person by this name was Haskell Curry, a logician for whom the programming languages Haskell and Curry were named.

8. Cato

Cato is traditionally a boy’s name of Latin origin that means “all-knowing.” Cato is the first name of Pharrell Williams’ brother as well as Cato June, a former Indianapolis Colts linebacker.

9. Quinn

This Irish name can stand on its own or work as a nickname for Quinton, Quincy or Quinta. It once was primarily chosen for boys, but Quinn as a girl’s name has been growing in popularity since the ’90s.

10. Abella

This French baby girl’s name is incredibly adore-abella! The name means to breathe, to exhale and to exist. With such a beautifully peaceful meaning, it’s a wonderful name to give your new baby girl.

As you can see, you can’t go wrong with one of these unique baby names. But if none of these 10 resonate with you, check out Mom365’s list of top 100 baby names; this is the most up-to-date compilation of baby names out there.

Molly Ploe comes from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and enjoys hiking, baking and reading. Her favorite Saturday is rainy with bread in the oven and a new book.

A beautiful young African American mother gently holds her infant daughter up in the air with both hands and kisses her cheek. The baby's eyes are wide open and she looks happy. They are sitting on a couch in their living room.

3 Ways Breastfeeding Benefits Moms

Babies need to eat, and many mothers have given ample thought about their chosen means to keep their children nourished. For new moms, breastfeeding is not only a natural choice, but a beneficial one.

Breastfeeding is free, convenient and requires few supplies or stocks of formula. Plus, it gives mothers a chance to bond with their little ones.

The health benefits of breastfeeding go beyond these, though. Here are three major advantages that come with this option:

1. Lowers the risk of SIDS

For a new parent, the potential for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome can be terrifying. Luckily, there are many actions parents can take to lower their babies’ risks of SIDS, such as keeping their crib free of soft surfaces like stuffed animals or pillows.

A new mom breastfeeds her baby.Breastfeeding can lower the risk of SIDS and postpartum depression.

Breastfeeding is another way mothers can reduce their child’s risk of SIDS, which is the leading cause of death for infants younger than one year old, according to an international study conducted by the University of Virginia Health System. The study found that a minimum of two months of breastfeeding can reduce a baby’s risk of SIDS by nearly half. Further, these results are also applicable to mothers who both breastfeed and bottle feed their babies.

“Breastfeeding for just two months reduces the risk of SIDS by almost half, and the longer babies are breastfed, the greater the protection,” Dr. Fern Hauck of the UVA School of Medicine and the UVA Children’s Hospital, explained, according to ScienceDaily. “The other important finding from our study is that any amount of breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS – in other words, both partial and exclusive breastfeeding appear to provide the same benefit.”

2. Strengthens the bond between mom and baby

There’s no bond like the one between mother and child, and breastfeeding can strengthen this connection even more. A decade-long study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that mothers who breastfeed for longer periods of time display maternal sensitivity for years after switching to other feeding methods.

Maternal sensitivity is defined in the study as:

  • Responsiveness to the child.
  • Emotional tone.
  • Behavioral flexibility.
  • Ability to read the child’s cues.

“It was surprising to us that breastfeeding duration predicted change over time in maternal sensitivity,” Jennifer Weaver of Boise State University and the lead author of the study said, according to Science Daily. “We had prior research suggesting a link between breastfeeding and early maternal sensitivity, but nothing to indicate that we would continue to see effects of breastfeeding significantly beyond the period when breastfeeding had ended.”

3. Reduces health risks for mom

During early motherhood, it’s important to focus on the baby’s health, but parents need to understand factors that affect their own well-being, too. Breastfeeding has numerous physical and mental health benefits for mom, including:

Weight loss

Breastfeeding burns calories, and mothers who even eat an additional 300 to 500 calories a day may lose weight, especially weight they gained during pregnancy. Typically, a mother will lose about 15 pounds immediately after giving birth, then continue to lose one to two pounds per month for the first six months of the child’s life, according to Mayo Clinic.

Breastfeeding can also lower the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services noted.

Postpartum depression recovery

Postpartum depression refers to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and other depressed notions shortly after giving birth. This mental health condition affects between 13 and 19 percent of new mothers, according to Depression Research and Treatment.

Previously, medical professionals believed that postpartum depression reduced the likelihood that mothers would breastfeed their children. While this may be the case, new breastfeeding research indicates this is a two-way street; by engaging in breastfeeding, new mothers may be able to reduce their risk of postpartum depression. It may also help women recover from PPD more quickly.

Molly Ploe comes from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and enjoys hiking, baking and reading. Her favorite Saturday is rainy with bread in the oven and a new book.

two toddlers dressed in costume

Key Developmental Milestones for Toddlers

Your toddler is growing and learning every day. Understanding the milestones most babies reach will help you gauge her development, but keep in mind that every child is different and may learn new skills at varying intervals. That said, if your baby seems a little behind, reaching out to her pediatrician may be a good idea.

Here are some of the toddler milestones your child will likely reach between ages one and three:

One-year-old milestones

By age one, your baby will understand some of the things you tell him, and he’ll want to say things back. But speaking is a hard thing to learn, so he’ll communicate through pointing, crying and simple gestures. For example, when he wants you to read him a story, he’ll probably hand you a book, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained. Or, when he doesn’t want to eat his carrots, he’ll shake his head “no.” You might even catch him trying to sound out some of the words you say.

Your little guy will also be ready to move, and you may find him pulling himself up to stand or using furniture to keep his balance while he toddles along. He should also be able to get into a seated position without help.

18-month-old milestones

The six months after your baby’s first birthday will be filled with growth and development. By 18 months old, your child will be very curious about the world around her. She’ll quickly move between positions (which means she may start climbing your furniture and shelves to get to her toys). She’ll also squat to pick something up, according to Parenting. As she becomes more coordinated, she’ll be able to turn her head while standing without falling down and will use her hands to pick up items, change positions and clap when she’s happy.

A toddler laughs as her dad holds her.Toddlers around 18 months old like to play, cuddle and explore.

For the most part, 18-month-olds are happy people: excited about social play, comforted by cuddles from mom or dad, and intrigued by new toys and environments. However, certain situations might bother your 18-month-old: Shy toddlers might be afraid of strangers or cling to a familiar person when in a new situation. She might throw temper tantrums (and you’ll have plenty more over the next year or so), but she should also be able to self-soothe when upset.

At this age, you may want to arrange for a doctor’s appointment if your toddler can’t:

  • Walk, or only tip-toes when she walks.
  • Form two-word sentences.
  • Push a toy with wheels.
  • Imitate actions or words.
  • Speak at least 15 words.

Two-year-old milestones

Your two-year-old will begin to understand himself to be separate from other people and will become increasingly more independent. He should also be able to follow simple instructions from you, like when you ask him to pick up his toys and put them in the toy box. But he’ll also start to show defiant behavior by doing something after you said not to (even though you know he understood you).

He’ll also be getting smarter: He might be able to sort toys or other objects by shape or color (though correctly naming many colors may not come until age 3). When you hide his favorite toy underneath a few covers, he’ll be able to find it. He’ll also start playing make believe at this age, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

At around age two, toddlers begin getting a feel for drawing and writing. He might pick up crayons and scribble (ideally in a coloring book and not on your wall), and he’ll be able to draw shapes like lines and circles.

Three-year-old milestones

Three-year-olds will have good emotional intelligence; if her friend starts crying, she’ll show sympathy. When she sees a friend, she’ll show affection or greet her without being told to do so. She’ll also understand the concept of taking turns in games.

Your three-year-old will become quite the little artist, able to draw people with two to four body parts, as well as squares and some capital letters, according to AAP.

You may be impressed with your three-year-old’s coordination: She’ll walk up and down stairs unassisted, with one foot on one step and the other on the next. She’ll use toys that have levers, buttons and other moving parts, and she’ll be able to unscrew jar lids.

Her language will get much better, and she’ll be able to speak clearly enough for strangers to understand. She’ll get basic concepts of grammar, and her sentences may have as many as six words. She’ll also be able to repeat parts of stories and finish familiar sentences from her favorite books. The concepts of “mine” and “his” will be clear to her, as well as “same” and “different.”

By this age, some developmental concerns include not being able to:

  • Jump in place.
  • Ride a tricycle.
  • Stack at least four blocks.
  • Respond to people who aren’t family members.
  • Understand the difference between “me” and “you.”
  • Hold a crayon or scribble.

Molly Ploe comes from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and enjoys hiking, baking and reading. Her favorite Saturday is rainy with bread in the oven and a new book.

a grandfather spending time with his grandson and his dog

Tips for Springtime Fun To Have With Your Grandchildren

Spring presents the perfect time of year for grandparents to get outdoors and have fun with their grandkids. Enjoying the nice weather and a fun activity together will help grandmas and grandpas bond with their grandchildren. Plus, it gives mom and dad some peace and quiet for themselves. Here are a few ideas to squeeze in before the summer season starts!

Spring activities for toddlers

Toddlers are at a cute age because they’re insatiably curious and are excited to have fun. Making a sensory tub or table will let them explore new textures, smells and items. Sensory tables are also great for language and motor skill development, as children will grasp the objects and you can teach them the names of different items in the tub.

Sensory tubs are simple to put together. First, you’ll need a tub and a base material. This can be anything, including rice, garden soil, shredded paper, sand, dried legumes or anything else, NurtureStore pointed out. Next, fill the tub with fun objects. You might include play plastic shovels, small toys like plastic bugs, vegetables or smooth stones. Make sure the items aren’t choking hazards and fit into the toddler’s stage of development.

Engaging in some crafts is a great way to spend an afternoon. If you have outdoor space with a picnic table or patio in the backyard, grandparents and grandkids can enjoy the warm weather and fresh air as they work on an art project together.

A DIY sun catcher is simple for toddlers to make and a good way to teach them about the changing seasons. All you’ll need is:

  • Scissors.
  • Adhesive foam, or construction paper and glue.
  • Contact paper.
  • Tissue paper.

Cut out the adhesive foam for the frame of the suncatcher. Hayley, author of the Minne-Mom blog, explained in a guest post for Fun at Home with Kids that she cut hers into flower shapes. Next, stick or glue the frame onto the non-stick side of contact paper cut to the same shape. Finally, stick small pieces of the tissue paper inside the frame. The tissue paper is translucent, so sun will shine through.

Spring activities for kids

As kids get older, grandparents can become more active with them. Take older children to the park to have a picnic. Ask them for help choosing which food to bring or putting together sandwiches. Also, come ready with some games to play.

Introduce your grandkids to some of the games you loved as a child, the American Grandparents Association suggested. Some ideas include:

  • Hopscotch: Bring along some sidewalk chalk and sketch out a grid to play on.
  • Flying kites: You can usually find inexpensive kites at dollar stores, or you can build a kite together.
  • Marbles: This game is so old-school it dates back to 4000 BC. It still gets kids interested today, so this can be a great activity to teach grandchildren.

Grandparents can also take their grandkids on learning adventures to local museums. If there’s a kids’ museum nearby, these can be fun ways to engage in creative play and learn some new things. But children can learn a lot at museums not made just for kids. Planetariums, natural history museums and art museums are fun places to make new discoveries, and some may have some kid-friendly activities or shows to attend.

Taking pictures can make a walk in the park or a trip to the beach more interactive while also capturing memories you and your grandchildren will treasure for years to come. Bring a digital camera so you can show your grandkids the photos as you take them. Or, if you have a Polaroid or other instant camera, you can print the photos on the spot to see how they turned out.

Molly Ploe comes from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and enjoys hiking, baking and reading. Her favorite Saturday is rainy with bread in the oven and a new book.

Easy, Portable Snacks Your Toddler Will Love

Parents of growing toddlers often wonder whether their little ones are eating enough and getting a balanced diet. As children broaden their culinary horizons and venture into solid foods with new textures and flavors, chances are, they’ll become picky eaters.

For parents just trying to get their kid to eat something good, it’s hard to strike a balance between nutritious snacks and palatable treats. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to sneak some goodness into tasty eats your toddler will crave.

Veggie nuggets

Not many toddlers are keen on the idea of trying new vegetables. But if your little one has developed a taste for Tater Tots, he’ll love these veggie nuggets from lifestyle blog Red, Round, or Green.

Begin by shredding carrots in a food processor and steaming broccoli florets in a microwave. Once the broccoli is ready, add it to the processor along with minced garlic, eggs, breadcrumbs, shredded cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. Blend slightly; the result should be a moldable, doughy mixture. Form into small quarter-inch-thick discs and coat with olive oil and more breadcrumbs. Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 15 minutes.

If your toddler is particularly averse to any sort of spice, you can take out the black pepper. Serve with his or her favorite dipping sauce, like ketchup, honey or mustard.

Healthy dips

Many easy snacks for toddlers are characteristically dippable: pretzels, carrot sticks, crackers and the list goes on. It’s easy to focus on the healthfulness of these items, and you may be able to sneak some added nutrition into snack time. While peanut butter has plenty of protein and is a toddler-friendly favorite, try mixing up your options with these nutrient-packed dips:

Hummus: Easy to buy or make yourself, simply process chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, water and olive oil. Add some flavor by mixing in cumin, paprika, salt and pepper, Inspired Taste suggested.

Nut butter caramel: Mix peanut butter, coconut sugar and milk, Super Healthy Kids instructed.

Creamy avocado dip: Blend avocado, tomato, garlic, lime, paprika, black pepper and salt. Next, mix in Greek yogurt for a creamier dip that’s rich in protein, Super Healthy Kids explained.

Take these dips on the go in small containers along with sandwich or snack baggies filled with your toddler’s favorite treats.

Mini muffins

Mini muffins are perfect for toddler-sized hands, and they’re easy to freeze and take out as needed, allowing busy parents to bake ahead for upcoming weeks. It’s also very easy to slip fruits and veggies into these delicious treats without raising a fuss from your picky eater.

Apple mini muffins are set in a wicker basket alongside apple slices.Mini muffins are the perfect on-the-go toddler snack.

Trail mix muffins

These trail mix muffins from Parents are hearty and sure to please.

Begin by preparing the quinoa as you normally would in a pot with boiling water or a rice cooker. Meanwhile, whisk together whole-wheat and all-purpose flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat together brown sugar, crunchy peanut butter, butter, egg yolk, vanilla extract, milk and prepared quinoa. Then, fold in the dry ingredients, followed by dried cranberries and chocolate chips. Next, beat two egg whites until soft peaks form, then fold into the batter.

Grease your mini muffin tin and fill each well three-quarters full with the batter. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes or until brown and firm. These muffins can be frozen for up to four months.

Zucchini banana muffins

Adding zucchini to banana muffins not only ups the nutritional value but also lends to a softer texture, Martha Stewart explained.

First, whisk together flour, flax seed, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Then, mix in mashed banana and shredded zucchini. Finally, stir in milk, egg and vanilla extract.

Bake in a mini-muffin tin at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick pushed into the center comes out clean.

Sandwich cubes

An overhead photo of a plate of cucumber sandwiches, shot from above on a teal blue texture with a place for text and a little vintage fork

Sometimes your tried and true staples are the best way to get your toddler to have a healthy snack, if only they were bite-sized. Handing an entire peanut butter and banana sandwich to tide your little one over until dinner might be a bit much, but cutting it into cubes could be the way to go. For healthy combinations, try turkey and cheese, berries and almond butter, or apple slices and peanut butter.

Molly Ploe comes from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and enjoys hiking, baking and reading. Her favorite Saturday is rainy with bread in the oven and a new book.

Close-up of an African American mom as she gently cradles and kisses her newborn daughter in her arms. She is wrapped up and swaddled and is sleeping with a content expression. Mom has her hands interlocked behind baby's full head of hair as she snuggles with her.

How Often Should A Newborn Breastfeed?

You may have heard the dietary advice, eat when you’re hungry; stop when you’re full. This is a lesson that applies to most people, but it’s one babies don’t need to be told. They already instinctively know.

When your baby is hungry, she’ll say so – not in words, but in actions and sounds. She might begin tapping her mouth with her hand, making sucking motions or sucking on her hands. If she’s really hungry, she’ll probably begin to cry.

New mothers are generally advised to feed their babies whenever they’re hungry, and to allow them to feed until they are full. This advice is different than that given to past generations of mothers, who learned that babies do best on a schedule, Parents noted. This is true for most things, like bedtime, bath time and naptime. But when baby is hungry, she needs to eat.

The case for on-demand

Some mothers worry that they’ll run out of milk if the baby feeds too much. This couldn’t be further from the truth; in fact, your body is cued to produce more milk with the frequency of suckling. Implementing a feeding schedule could actually work against milk production, according to lactation expert Kathy Kuhn, as longer intervals between feedings don’t signal that more milk is needed.

A mother holds her infant.Mothers should feed their babies whenever they are hungry.

Though milk production is continuous, there are fluctuations with the quality of milk produced. These may be related to the mother’s diet, time of day, length of feeding time, interval between feedings or other factors. In general, though, the milk at the beginning of a feeding is low in fat. The fat content gradually increases, and at the end of a feeding, it’s more cream-like than what you may think of milk-like.

Babies need the creamier milk produced toward the end of a feeding, and cutting a baby off may prevent her from getting the nutrients she needs to grow and develop.

In addition to not getting the high-fat milk they need, babies who aren’t fed when they’re hungry can get fussy. They begin to squirm, cry and they become anxious if they’re not given food when they need it. As such, when mom finally sits down to feed baby, the infant might have a harder time latching on, further preventing her from getting the nutrition she needs, explained Gwen Dewar, a biological anthropologist who founded the site Parenting Science.

How long to breastfeed a baby

Just like your baby will tell you when he’s hungry, he’ll also stop feeding when he’s full. Try not to remove your baby from your breast before he’s done eating, as this could prevent him from getting enough high-fat content necessary to healthy development. When he stops suckling, try switching breasts; if he takes it, continue to feed. If he doesn’t, he’s likely full, and it’s OK to stop.

Babies tend to feed anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes, Kuhn explained. Other times, he might want to feed nearly constantly for hours on end. Don’t worry; variation is normal.

Some babies might prefer to cluster feed at certain times of the day. This means they’ll have multiple longer feeding sessions with few short breaks in between. This is normal, and isn’t a reflection on your milk supply. It just means he’s hungry.

How to know your baby is getting enough milk

Your baby can’t tell you she’s full or that you’ve given her enough milk. You can only watch for signs that she’s getting enough to eat. She should be gaining weight and have five or six wet diapers every day. She should also have three or four bowel movements daily for the first two months of life, but those may decrease in time.

Molly Ploe comes from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and enjoys hiking, baking and reading. Her favorite Saturday is rainy with bread in the oven and a new book.