Why reading to babies is so important
Babies love books. They love the chance to snuggle in your arms and hear your voice as you read. What’s more, reading helps them learn language—and more.
Babies are hungry for the information in the pictures, and the sound of the words. While their language and communication skills are growing and they are learning about the world, you are strengthening your bond with them. Everyone wins, especially if the books are chosen carefully.
Not every board book is a quality book for babies. It takes more than printing a children's book on thick cardboard to be appropriate for these new learners. The words and pictures need to be geared towards their developmental stage. Language should be composed of simple words and concepts: Rhymes, repetition and short sentences all capture a baby’s attention. Bright, colorful pictures will capture their gaze. They love both familiar subjects, like the babies in Gyo Fujikawa’s Babies, and ones they haven’t yet met—like the zoo animals in Goodnight Gorilla.
It’s also important for it to be a book that adults like to read, because babies prefer to hear the same story over, and over, and over again. Choose wisely! Here are some both babies and adults we know have enjoyed. If you aren't familiar with them all, check them out and let us know which ones you'll be adding to your grandbaby's collection!
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Show your family how important they are
Drive-by baby showers. Virtual Passover Seders. Birthday parades. Halloween scavenger hunts.
We’ve gotten creative about celebrating holidays safely this year. But our biggest holiday challenges lie ahead, and it’s time for grandparents to make a plan for them.
Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hannukah celebrations center on the time we spend with the people we care most about. They are important holidays for making memories and sharing traditions. If you’ve always gathered for Christmas dinner at Grandma’s house, it’s hard to imagine the holiday meal anywhere else, or without everyone at the table.
Like most military families, my family and I have had our fair share of holidays far from extended family. I’ve had Christmas dinners on an airplane, in a Chinese restaurant in Rome, and with only a sick child as my companion. These years stand out not because they were sad or lonely meals, but because we found ways to celebrate even when we had to deviate from tradition.
This year, we all need put science over tradition, adjust our expectations, and find new ways to celebrate with—or without—the ones we love.
The expectations are the biggest hurdle for many of us. The human brain is a champion of justifying what it wants to do, even if science, common sense and its best friend are telling them it’s a bad idea. So if you really want to have everyone home for Thanksgiving, you can easily convince yourself that it’s not that risky because everyone has been “really careful” and you’ll keep the can of Lysol handy.
Unfortunately, the science we’ve accumulated on Covid tells us there is no way to share a meal inside safely, so if anyone is carrying the virus, everyone is at risk. If we truly feel that nothing is more important than our families, then we need to do everything we can to keep them safe. It’s up to us as grandparents to safeguard the health of ourselves, our parents, our children and our grandchildren. And this year, for many of us, that means not gathering them around our table.
Now is the time to talk to your families. If you are lucky enough to already be in a bubble with your family, keep your celebrations to just that bubble. Let other family members know that you won’t be visiting, and that you realize it’s safer if they celebrate without you. Share your recipes, share your memories, share what you are thankful for—but don’t risk sharing this virus.
How Reading Helps Children’s Development
Among the many, many children’s books in my house, there are several that have an inscription from my grandparents and a sticker from Vroman’s, the bookstore where they shopped their entire lives. There is no doubt in my mind that these gifts from my grandparents contributed to my love of reading.
My grandparents were not unique in sharing their love of books with their grandchildren: many of us do the same. And with good reason—books are an easy and meaningful way to connect generations. Whether they are asking us to read their favorite story, or we are sharing a book that their mother loved as a child, we are weaving connections to one another.
But do you know just how much sharing books with your grandchildren helps them? Reading boosts children’s development in a multitude of ways.
Do you think your children are better parents than you were? Odds are, you don’t. According to a 2018 study by AARP, a startling three in four grandparents disagree with the statement, “In general, parenting today is better than it was.” They believe that discipline is worse than it used to be, and that parents today are both too lax and too overprotective.
Luckily, most grandparents respect boundaries and hold their tongue even when they disagree.
Most, but far from all. Another recent study, this time of parents, shows that disagreements about parenting choices are common.
In an August 2020 Mott Poll Report, 43% of parents report asking a grandparent to change their behavior to be consistent with the parents’ choices and rules. Although the Mott Poll Report doesn’t give specific examples of the conflicts, some of the disagreements parents have shared with me include:
“She’d never use the clothing or skincare products or diapers/wipes that we sent with her, and my daughter would get rashes.”
Services to Help New Parents When Grandparents Can’t Be There
A few of you have asked us to recap the posts that covered the many ways that grandparents can help out if they can’t be there physically when a new baby arrives. Work schedules, finances, geography, ill health—not to mention a pandemic: there are many reasons why you may not be able to be on the scene to help the new parents. That doesn’t mean you can’t help out, though. Here’s a quick run down of the services we covered in past weeks:
Katie Clark, a Certified Lactation Educator through CAPPA, leads us through the services a lactation expert can provide to new mothers, and how grandparents can make sure parents get the support they need. Read the post.
Sheryl Cooksley of Family Tree Doula Services explains the emotional, physical, and instructional support that doulas can provide to new parents. She shares how grandparents can get involved in the process of finding a doula to join the new family support team. Read the post.
Family sleep consultant
A new mom shares her experience with Rest to Your Nest’s Mary Cantwell, a family sleep coach who crafted a plan to address the family sleep challenges. Because everything is easier with enough sleep! Read the post.
Meals, house cleaning, and laundry
Meal prep services abound, and there is one for every budget and palate. Home cleaning services are widely available, and having someone else mop the floor and scrub the shower is a true gift to new parents. Almost every town has a dry cleaners or laundromat that offers “wash, dry and fold”, and many offer pick up and delivery—making this service even more convenient. Read the post.
Are there any other services grandparents can help provide when they can’t be there in person? Please leave a comment if you know of any to add to the list!
If you pick up Camp Grandma expecting a book to help you plan a week of fun activities for your grandchildren, you may find it lacking. If you pick it up looking for ways to deepen your relationship with your grandchildren, pass along your gifts and values, or help them become successful adults, you won’t be disappointed.
Marianne Waggoner Day approaches time with her grandchildren as a retired corporate executive. The lessons she takes from her time in the business world are among the values she wants to pass along to her four grandchildren. She established Camp Grandma to “establish a structure where my four grandkids could come together and through shared experiences truly learn about each other and maybe more about themselves.”
She compares Camp Grandma to a corporate retreat for kids, where they learn about setting agendas and goals, giving presentations, and teamwork. And while she outlines the activities she does with her grandkids, she emphasizes that the book is not meant to be a blueprint for others. Instead, she hopes readers will find the inspiration to pass our own talents to our grandchildren.
This book will be most useful for grandparents who are lucky enough to care for their grandchildren on a regular basis, or who can carve out dedicated time with them during the summer. However, the ideas are valuable for all grandparents, and I recommend you get a copy today!
Have you read Camp Grandma? What did you think?
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You do everything you can to keep your grandchildren safe.
You pay attention to the way they sleep, make sure the car seat is installed correctly, and don’t let them ride off on their bike without their helmet. But there are dangers in the world that go beyond the physical—and one is a danger that didn’t exist when your own children were young. If you are one of the 75% of grandparents who use social media, you may be endangering your grandchildren in a way you never considered.
Facebook and Instagram have replaced the pictures of their grandchildren that grandmothers used to carry. Now instead of pulling out their wallet to show off the latest, grandparents share those photos with their friends on social media. And unless they are very careful with their privacy settings, they are also sharing them with the world. But it’s not just the photos that are shared—it’s the information that goes with them.
A million children in the US were victims of identity theft in 2017. Too many grandparents post photos on social media with information that exposes their children and grandchildren to identity theft and hackers.
Personally identifiable information should be treated like gold, and yet every day I see public posts announcing the birth of a baby with full name and birth date mentioned. Many of these posts make it easy to figure out birthplace and mother’s maiden name, too.
That proud and unsuspecting grandparent has just handed a potential identity thief four of the most useful pieces of information they could want. Even with your privacy settings set as securely as possible, nothing that is posted on the internet is truly secure.
It doesn’t take a pandemic to keep grandparents from being able to help out after a new baby arrives. Work schedules, finances, geography, ill health—there are many reasons why you may not be able to be on the scene to support new parents. But there are still ways you can help! So far we've covered hiring a postpartum doula, sleep consultant and household help.
Today Katie Clark of The Breastfeeding Mama shares how breastfeeding support can help new mothers.
According to a UC Davis study, the vast majority of new moms report having trouble breastfeeding - around 92%. Through my own experience, the number one thing that helped when I was struggling to breastfeed my own children was support - especially from my own mother.
Breastfeeding and infant nutrition recommendations have changed over the years, and the prevalence of breastfeeding has increased as well. This may make it difficult for grandparents to know the best way to support their breastfed grandchild and his or her parents, especially if they aren’t familiar with breastfeeding.
To a new mom, just knowing she has someone in her corner cheering her on can make a bad day a little bit easier. Even if the new mom isn’t struggling with something specific, the early days of breastfeeding can be exhausting! Kind words go a long way.
How Can Grandparents Help?
First of all, be gentle - new moms have tons of hormones and emotions that are all over the place. Even if she’s doing something different than you did, try to be kind in your recommendations.
Be encouraging - simply having someone say, “I’m here for you” can make a world of difference. Saying something like, “Just give a bottle” or “Formula works just fine!” might not be the best approach. There may come a time when a mother needs to be told it’s okay to stop breastfeeding, but I would avoid jumping to that at the first sign of trouble. The vast majority of breastfeeding problems have solutions with the right support.
Encourage the new mom to take a breastfeeding class and attend with them if they need you to. Online breastfeeding classes are affordable, can be taken at home, and are a good resource for grandparents who want to be as helpful as possible.
Educate yourself - there’s so much information available on breastfeeding these days. My favorite website is KellyMom.com for up-to-date information on pretty much every topic related to breastfeeding. I also have many useful articles on my websites, The Breastfeeding Mama and Clarks Condensed. Breastfeeding Essentials is one of our mini classes that might be especially helpful for a grandparent.
Offer to find help - if you see a mother struggling, reaching out for help might be difficult for her. Being sleep deprived and overwhelmed, she might not even know where to start. Thankfully, there are a lot of lactation specialists available these days, so when you find you can’t offer the support you want, you can help direct a new mom in the right direction. It can be a little overwhelming to know exactly what each kind of lactation specialists does, so here is an overview of the three main categories: