Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Focus on Sign Language: More

Recently I did a beginning post on sign language that you can find it here. I thought I would devote some posts to specific signs with some suggestions on learning and using the sign with your preemie.

Today's post is focused on the sign for "more." Asking for more can be used throughout the day - especially during meals or playtime. This site has a great photo of the sign to get you started.

Introducing the sign:

  • Once your preemie has some hand eye coordination (doing things like waving, pointing, clapping, etc) and is starting to understand the concept of asking for something (or saying no to something), it is a good time to encourage him/her to sign.
  • Start introducing the sign by saying the word as you make the sign. I've found it useful if I put emphasis on the word you are signing (i.e. Do you want MORE?) so that my preemie knows which word I'm signing.
  • Spend a few days using the word and sign whenever possible. Put your hands where your preemie can see them so that he/she can really notice what you are doing. If you have older children, encourage them to do the sign as well (with lots of praising when they do).
  • Once you have shown your preemie the sign a number of times, show him/her how to do it. The sign for "more" is a great one to start with because you can easily put your hands over his/hers and form his/her hands into the sign. As you help your preemie make the sign, say the word so that he/she again associates the sign with the word.
  • After you have taught your preemie how to make the sign, encourage him/her to make the sign every time the word is used. Help him/her make the sign for the first few times as it will take time to remember how to do it. Once you feel like your preemie has the idea, start expecting him/her to make the sign. In the beginning, any small gesture that looks like a purposeful attempt to make the sign should be praised and treated as if he/she did the whole sign.

Good activities to use the sign "more"

Mealtime - give your preemie a small amount of food. Once he/she has finished, ask "Do you want more?" and sign "more." Wait for your preemie to sign (or at least try to) more before giving more of the food. If you are spoon feeding your preemie, ask if he/she wants more between bites.

Playtime - A great way to encourage using more is to play with a toy that has multiple parts or various things to do so that your preemie needs to sign more if he/she wants to continue playing. Good activities are blocks, mega blocks, parts to a toy (like Mr. Potato Head), toys with buttons that play songs or flash lights, etc. Another great activity is blowing bubbles. After you blow some bubbles, stop and ask your preemie if he/she wants more. Wait for the sign before blowing more bubbles. When your preemie is done playing with one toy and indicating that he/she wants something else, ask "Do you want "more" toys?. Wait for him/her to sign back before offering a new toy.

Over time you will notice your preemie doing the sign automatically. Remember in the beginning that any effort or indication to make the sign should be praised and rewarded (as if he/she had done the entire sign).

Don't forget to take it slow. Just like any other skill, your preemie will need time to figure out how to do it, when to do it and what is expected of him/her.

The next sign will be all done.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holidays with preemies

The holidays can be a fun but sometimes difficult time for the parent of preemies. Smack dab in the middle of RSV season comes a holiday that usually involves celebrating with family and friends. It can be hard to spend holidays without everyone with you and if you are allowed to be in groups, you have to remain ever vigilant about hand washing and any other issues you might be facing with your preemie. Here are some tips and ideas for celebrating the holidays with your preemie and enjoying the season despite the challenges we face.

Keep it small - Even though you may normally celebrate with large family gatherings or holiday parties with friends, don't forget that this is RSV season. Try and celebrate with just your immediate family or keep the gathering very small. For parties, either find a babysitter for your little one or forgo attending parties where you can't control who is there (or how healthy they are).

Celebrate - Even if you are just celebrating with your husband/wife and kids, still create a festive environment. I've talked to several preemie parents who have said "why bother if it's just us" but trust me - you are worth the effort too! Make a special meal, follow the holiday traditions you normally have and still take the time to simply celebrate how far your family has come this year.

Let your preemie be has involved as he/she wants to be - The holidays can be overwhelming for all us but especially to preemies. The lights, the excitement, the people, the noise - it can all get to be too much. Be mindful of your preemies' cues and try to make sure they don't get too overwhelmed with all of it.

Have some fun - Even if you preemie is small and doesn't really understand what's going on - still keep him/her involved in the holidays. Keep your preemie in the room with you while you open gifts. Let your preemie play with the wrapping paper, ribbon, boxes or anything else that grabs his/her attention.

Capture Growth - The holidays are a great time to take an annual picture that shows just how much your preemie has grown. We use a stocking that in our son's first year he could fit inside of and now he just holds it up. A great reminder of how far he has come. Other great ideas are a special ornament, hat, candy cane, decoration or anything else that you have around the house.

Enjoy your little miracles!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Favorite Product #29

This week's favorite toy is the great classic - Mr. Potato Head.

Mr. Potato Head has been around for generations and for good reason - it is a great toy. Beyond the fun of making silly faces, this toy has some great developmental aspects as well. Here are some tips to get the most of this toy:

1) Body parts - Let your preemie look at each part and name them for him/her. Help your preemie name each body part his/herself - you can point to each body part on Mr. Potato Head and then point to the same one on your preemie. Encourage your preemie to put the pieces in - you can first let him/her put them in any spot but then slowly encourage proper placement.

2) Fine motor - Having your preemie put each piece into the hole is great for practicing fine motor skills

3) Role Playing - Mr. Potato Head and "talk" to your preemie or your preemie can try and feed Mr. Potato Head too. Anything that encourages interaction.

There are a bunch of extra pieces you can get now - They even have Rock Star Mr. Potato Head. How cute is that?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Developmental Post #23

I've decided to call this post - How to do developmental therapy while lying on the couch.

You know when you've had one of those days at work (or you're just plain tired) and you get home and there your preemie is - waiting to play with you. Or if you stay home with your preemie, you may want to relax on the couch for a couple of minutes but your preemie wants to play. Guess what? You can play with your preemie, provide some great developmental therapy and still be laying on the couch. Win-Win. Here are some ways to do that:

1) Tummy time - lay your preemie down on your chest and spend some quality one on one time checking each other out. He/she works on his/her head control and neck muscles and you can give your feet some well deserved rest.

2) Cause and effect - have your preemie sit on your stomach (or pull your knees up and have your preemie lean back (depending on gross motor skills) and play Peek A Boo. Use your hands or a blanket.

3) Stimulation/Speech - Bounce your preemie up and down while he/she sits on your stomach. If he/she is old enough, start bouncing and then stop. Before you start bouncing again, say Ready, Set and then pause before saying go. Wait for your preemie to either say go or indicate in some way that he/she wants you to bounce.

4) Mirror play - Place a mirror near your face and let your preemie look at him/herself in the mirror. Encourage your preemie to smile at the baby in the mirror or if he/she is older, have him/her point out various body parts.

5) Sing Songs - have your preemie sit or lay on you and sing some songs. Anything will do. Your preemie will enjoy the entertainment

6) Books - grab a book and read something to your preemie. Encourage him/her to turn the pages, point to various pictures and touch the pages.

7) Body parts - point out body parts on your preemie and yourself. Try and get him/her to do the same.

8) Nap time - Sometimes the best developmental therapy is a good old fashioned nap. So cuddle up with your little one and enjoy some much deserved shut eye.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Keep it clean: part 2

Now that the winter season is fully here, parents of preemies need to be extra careful about keeping their preemie healthy. Last winter I did a series of posts about staying healthy so please check here, here, here , and here for more tips and information.

On a recent trip to Target we added a new soap to our bathroom. It is called Soap Tunes Foaming Soap.

When you press down on the dispenser, it plays a little song while you wash your hands. There are three different options - all based on something educational like counting or the ABCs. My son loves it. Soap tip: If your youngest happens to be in the bedroom right across from the bathroom, you might want to have your oldest use a different soap in the middle of the night. It can be a jaring wake-up at 2am.

Here are a few additional tips to use while you are getting through this winter/RSV season:

  • Bring your own pen so that you can use it when signing credit card receipts at the store. You never know who used the store pen before you. If you have to use the store pen - use Purell when you are finished.
  • Watch what your preemie (or other kids) touch when you are at the store. The check out counter area, store shelves, and other areas are prime spots that your preemie might touch.
  • Ask to be put in a room at the doctor's office rather than in the waiting area. It will mean you're in the exam room for longer however there are far less germs
  • Bring your own toys with you in the diaper bag - you know where your toys have been and who has touched them so try and keep your preemie interested in those vs. toys in the waiting room, friend's house, etc. that have been touched by many hands.

Friday, November 28, 2008

FYI: Giveaway

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving (or regular Thursday). One of the blogs I read is doing a giveaway and I thought some of you would be interested in entering. It's a big basket giveaway of items for your little ones including clothes, a blanket, and toys - all from great mom-owned and operated which is even better. Check it out here for information. Good luck!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. If you aren't celebrating this day, than I hope you have a fantastic day full of things to be thankful for.

We are sick but thankful this day. Despite all of the challenges that preemies and preemie parents face, there are many things to be thankful for this year. Take a moment to give some extra loves, hugs and smooches to your family today.

And enjoy!!

I'll be back later this week and throughout December with a lot of new posts about staying healthy this winter, being an advocate, feeding and reflux issues and of course a preemie holiday gift list.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sign Language

Sign language can be a very useful tool for helping your preemie communicate with you and the rest of the world. Both of my preemies were delayed in speech so I know how frustrating it can be to try and understand what your preemie wants. There are a lot of books, videos, and websites that can help you learn and teach sign language. Here are some things I have learned while teaching my daughter sign:

1) Start simple. Your preemie isn't going to pick up every sign right away. Pick a few key signs and work on them until your preemie gets the idea and then slowly add more.

2) What signs to start with? Start with signs that can be used in multiple situations. Good ones to start with are: more, all done, help, open, drink, eat, and play.

3) Use playtime to teach signs - When you are playing, start using the signs and encouraging your preemie to do the same. Here are some good way to use some basic signs:

  • More - blow some bubbles and let your preemie pop the bubbles. Before you blow more, say more? while you make the more sign. Help your preemie make the sign so he/she can start to get the idea.
  • Open - put a toy in a clear container with a lid that is hard to open (zippered bag, peanut butter, lotion container). Have your preemie see you put the toy in and then hand him/her the container. If he/she hands the container to you or tries to open it, say open? while you make the sign. Open the container once your preemie tries to make the sign or you have at least encouraged it several times.
  • Help - if your preemie is getting frustrated or tries to indicate that he/she needs help than do the help sign before helping him/her. Try to get him/her to do it before helping them

4) Adapt. Even though it is usually best to use the correct gesture for each sign (so that others understand them), if you need to change them to better suit your preemie's abilities than do it. We have changed the play and help sign so that our daughter can actually do it.

Have fun communicating with your little one!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Favorite Product #28

This week's favorite product is the Fisher Price Fun 2 Imagine Shopping Cart

After seeing how much my daughter loved the shopping cart toy at her PT appointments, I went out and got this one for her. She absolutely loves it. She can put things inside the basket, push it around on her knees and use it as a walker (with help). If your preemie is starting to get the idea of walking - or just wants a fun shopping cart toy - than I would highly recommend this one. The shelf on the bottom is perfect for adding a heavy object for increased stability (a 5 pound bag of sugar works nicely).

For beginning walkers you can use this as a makeshift walker. Just make sure you weigh it down or help hold on to it because it will tilt. If your preemie has equipment requirements, I have heard of parents buying old kid size shopping carts from places like Trader Joe's. They are a bit bigger and more stable for holding oxygen, monitors, etc.

Once your preemie is walking, you can encourage imaginative play by using the shopping cart for a game of grocery store. Get older siblings involved as well - they can be the checkout person or the bagger.

For school age preemies - you can encourage them to write out their own grocery list before shopping. This helps them work on writing as well as remembering what foods they can "buy." Make your own grocery list and have your preemie practice reading the list as you shop. This is also a great activity to do in a real grocery store.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

New Craft Blog

I decided to create a seperate blog for all of the craft projects I have planned. Hopefully this will make it easier for those people who are interested only in craft projects or those people only interested in preemie specific posts.

The blog addres is The new felt play book designed especially for girls is now posted.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Amazon Baby Products Sale

I just received an email from that they are having a super sale in the baby store so I wanted to pass along the link for anyone who might be interested. This is a four day sale according to the website. Happy shopping!

Amazon Baby Store Super Sale

Monday, November 3, 2008

Handmade Holidays

Update: Thank you for all the nice comments - I'm so glad that people like the idea. I've added in some bigger pictures so people can get a closer look at the finished product. Also, I've gotten some emails from people who were wondering if I would make the race track book to sell (for those without time or sewing abilities). I've added the race track book to my etsy shop at for anyone interested. Thanks for the interest!!

Update2: I decided to create a seperate blog for all of the craft projects I have planned. Hopefully this will make it easier for those people who are interested only in craft projects or those people only interested in preemie specific posts.

The blog addres is The new felt play book designed especially for girls is now posted. Thanks!

With Halloween just behind us, the holiday season has officially arrived. And that means getting a move on with making gifts for the holidays. So I'm adding a new feature to the blog - Handmade Holidays. I'll feature some holiday gifts that I'm making or have been inspired by - all (mildly) related to preemies or families with preemies. I hope you enjoy!

Traveling Race Track Book

Since both of my kids are home with me, I end up having to take my 5 year-old to many doctor appointments, lab visits, and therapy appointments that aren't for him. I pack a lot of toys and activities to keep him entertained however I'm always looking for new items. I especially like activities that encourage him to use his imagination and the quieter - the better.

So I created his very own traveling race track book. It's a felt book with two different sized race tracks. When open, the small race track is the size of one piece of felt and the large track is the size of two pieces. The back has pockets for holding his beloved race cars. He loved it instantly. I plan on making some for our friends kids as well because every boy (or girl) can use a race track to take with them to places. The size makes it perfect for throwing in a purse or diaper bag.

Front View:

Small Track:

Large Track:

Car Storage:

Prematurity Awareness Month

November is Prematurity Awareness Month so if you get a chance, educate someone on prematurity and how it has affected your life. For more information, visit the March of Dimes site. In fact, if you know of someone who is pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant or just had a baby - encourage them to visit the site. They have a lot of valuable information.

In addition to November being Prematurity Awareness month it is also time for a bunch of new entries and information from yours truly. Things have finally settled down a bit! I will have a lot of new articles on development, favorite toys, being an advocate, keeping healthy and sane this winter and much more!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Developmental Post #22

As your preemie starts growing and developing there are more things that he/she can do and will need to learn how to do. If you are in an early intervention program (or even if you aren't), you will start to have goals and things to work on with your preemie. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming to try and fit therapy into your schedule however if you think about it - there are a lot of opportunities to work on various goals throughout the day.

For example - if you are working on playing peek-a-boo then you can you work on it during mealtimes, diaper changes, playtime, bathtime and even bedtime.

My son's developmental therapist created a great chart for him that had our general schedule on the top and his developmental goals down the side. We filled in the boxes with the various ways I could incorporate "therapy time" into these basic activities. As he progressed and had new goals, we simply made a new chart. Here's an example using Peek-a-boo:

Working on peek-a-boo:

Mealtime - cover small toys or objects with a dish towel and let him pull it off
Diaper/clothing change - cover your face (or his) with a diaper or clothes and then remove it
Play with mom/dad - hide behind furniture and pop out while saying peek-a-boo
Play on his own - give him different kinds of cloths and blankets to play with
Bathtime - cover up toys in the bath with a washcloth or hide behind the shower curtain an pop out
Bedtime/Wake up - after he wakes up, peek around the door until he sees you.

Sometimes just having it written down and going through the process of brainstorming various ways to do therapy can help you remember and come up with new ideas. If you make a chart, I would encourage you to hang it in a place where you see it everyday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Being an advocate for your preemie: Part 2

This post about being an advocate for your preemie is devoted to trusting your gut.

I’m sure you have heard time and again that you should “trust your gut.” While my husband and I like to ask questions, think things through and then make a decision, I have often noticed that my initial gut reaction or decision is usually the one that we go with. Sometimes you gut reaction can be a loud “absolutely not” voice in your head or sometimes it can be a quiet, nagging feeling that just doesn’t go away. So how do you know when to trust your gut or whether your gut is choosing to speak to you? Here are some things to pay attention to:

Preemie parents are faced with many medical decisions that can be life or death. When this happens to you, listen to what the doctor/nurse/surgeon is telling you. What are the options? What does each option entail/mean for your preemie? Why does this need to be done? What if we do or don’t do something? As those questions are answered, what are the first thoughts that come to mind? Do you find yourself leaning one way or another? Concentrating on one option over another? Seriously against one of the options? Those are some key indicators as to what your may be thinking.

When and how should you pay attention to your gut? Just because you have an initial reaction to something doesn’t always mean it is the right decision. But it also doesn’t mean that it is automatically wrong either. The thought of surgery or a medically invasive procedure is never pleasant but is often the option that is chosen because it is ultimately best for your preemie. That’s why it’s important to listen to that gut reaction that happens once you have information. As you think things through and discuss and weigh the options, what is your gut telling you then? Just because you initially said “no way” or “absolutely” to something doesn’t mean that you should go that direction because it may have been an initial thought without the necessary information.

Here is an example:

I was admitted to the hospital with my daughter when she was 23 weeks and 6 days. They told us all of the potential issues, obstacles and problems that our daughter might face by being born so early. After getting all of that information, the doctor told us that we needed to decide what to do. If she was born that night, did we want them to do everything they could to save her or should they do nothing and let “nature” takes its course? What a question. That was a decision and a series of conversations that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. My initial reaction was that of course we had to do everything, this was our baby! And then my husband and I really sat down and hashed it out. What would a baby that could have many, many problems face in this world? Could we do it? What would it mean for our family? For our son? I really sat and wondered if maybe we should let her go. Maybe she wasn’t meant to be in this world. Thankfully my gut was very loud and kept telling me that no, this was our baby and she deserves to be given a chance. And so we did and despite some obstacles she is absolutely the blessing that my gut knew she would be. I’m thankful everyday that I listened.

It can also be helpful to know your gut reaction to something as you start to talk to other people. As I’m sure you know, once you tell people or discuss the options with people EVERYONE will have an opinion. It can be easy to be swayed one way or another by a passionate argument or new idea. I do think that opinions are very valuable however sometimes they can lead you away from what YOU truly think or want. So as you listen to the opinions, remember what your initial reaction was and let that guide you towards the ultimate answer or decision you make.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Life in our preemie world

Lately we have had a bit of a fussy preemie on our hands. I think our recent vacation to Disneyland took more out of her than we realized. Since Olivia is delayed in expressive speech, she can't communicate frustration very well. Well, unless you count the ear splitting screams that she now resorts too. Not a fun sound. When she's extra tired it can be difficult to really determine what she wants/needs.

So what's a tired preemie mom to do?

Turn on some tunes and get dancing. Physical motion tends to calm Olivia down and she really enjoys listening and dancing to music. I couldn't find my iPod so I had to frantically flip through our CD collection and find an album that wasn't full of slow songs but had lyrics that were okay for a five-year-old. So we rocked out to Elvis and eventually had her calmed down enough to go to sleep.
So tell me, what's your desperation moment strategy for calming/distracting your preemies?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Being an advocate for your preemie

This is the first in a series of posts about being an advocate for your preemie. All parents are advocates for their children however preemie parents often have to take this role on in a larger and more active way. These posts will explore what it means to be an advocate and ways that I have found (through my own experiences and that of others) to be a good and useful advocate for your preemie.

According to the dictionary, the definition of advocate is: One that pleads in an other's behalf; an intercessor

While that is a very appropriate definition, I think that for a preemie parent the advocate definition would go something like this:

  • One that constantly tries to take care of his/her children to the best of their ability
  • One that makes sure the correct doctor visits are scheduled and pushes to find new doctors or specialists if needed
  • One that is often bombarded with new medical terms and issues and must come up to speed very quickly
  • One that keeps track of diagnosis, prescriptions, surgeries, medical history, issues, problems, etc
  • One that has to keep asking and searching for answers in order to best help their preemie
  • One that has to be at times outspoken or at times quiet in order to get the answer or help they need
  • A researcher
  • One that knows to ask questions and question the answer that he/she is given
  • One that must make sometimes life changing decisions even when they are not sure what is right
  • One that sometimes must look at new/different/alternative options for their preemie in order to get the best care possible
  • One that does not take no for an answer until all other options have been explored/questioned/exhausted
  • One that often has to argue why a decision was made or not made to family, friends and strangers
  • One that faces a constant battle that often doesn't have a clear end point
  • One who loves their children to the end of the earth and back

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Did you know?

Many parents of preemies try to keep their preemie out of traditional daycare in order to reduce germ exposure. On the flip side, daycare is also one of the key risk factors for receiving/being approved for the Synagis shots during RSV season. I recently learned that the definition of "daycare" is actually quite broad so if the definition below applies to you - make sure to let your pediatrician know so that he/she can accurately describe your preemie's risk factors when they send a request to your insurance company.

Daycare is defined as 2 or more children who are not siblings that are together for 4 or more hours. So think about it - do you have a friend who watches your preemie (while watching his/her own kid) while you run some errands or get some work done? Does your older sibling go to playgroups or other kid activities where he/she would be exposed to germs? All of that counts so make a note of it if it applies to you and your preemie.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Favorite Product #27

This week's favorite product is the Melissa and Doug Shapes Chunky Puzzle

I absolutely love puzzles. There are some many opportunities to teach concepts, hand eye coordination and most importantly - have fun. We just found this puzzle last week and it has been an instant favorite with my littlest preemie. What I like about this puzzle is that the design is bright and colorful but also basic. Each shape piece is chunky so it is easy for little hands to pick up the pieces. This would make a great first addition to any preemie's growing puzzle stash.

Here are some ways to use puzzles to encourage development:

1) Touch and Feel - puzzle pieces are a great way opportunity for preemie's to feel a new object and surface. Encourage your preemie to feel the edges and sharp corners of each piece. Talk about how the pieces are smooth, the edges are round/sharp/pointy/etc.

2) Doing the puzzle - First let your preemie just experiment with taking the pieces out of the puzzle and then trying to put them back in. It doesn't matter if he/she doesn't put them into the right spot at first - the key is that he/she recognizes that each piece goes in and out. After he/she has that concept, start with just one or two pieces. The circle and square are the best ones to start with because they are simple and yet also very different from each other. If you can, user your hands to cover the remaining pieces so your preemie can concentrate on just those spaces. First hand him/her one shape and let him/her try to put into the matching spot. Hand him/her the other piece and then start again. Slowly expand to the rest of the puzzle once he/she gets the hang of it.

3) Shapes and colors - As your preemie gets older you can go back to a basic puzzle like this to start teaching him/her about shapes and colors. The simple design of this puzzle makes it a really great place to start.

Happy Puzzling!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Life In Our Preemie World

Life in our preemie world has been quite busy of late. A flurry of activities (both planned and unplanned) have kept us busy, busy. One of the things that we have been started planning in our house is Halloween costumes. I know it's not quite October however we LOVE Halloween. And I normally try to make costumes myself which requires some advance planning to get it done in time. This is Olivia's second Halloween. Hopefully she will be able to see at least a few people in this year before the official winter "lockdown" commences. Last year she and I spent it at home while my son went trick-or-treating with dad and friends.

This year she is going to be:

Because seriously, what preemie isn't a Wonder Woman or Superman?
Our son was Superman for his second Halloween (the first was spent in the NICU while wearing a festive bib). We decided it was only fitting for Olivia to follow suit in a smaller version of the costume above.
Do you have a great preemie costume idea? Leave a comment and let us know.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Developmental Post #21

This week's developmental post is focused on the developmental milestones of preemies who are 9-11 months old. Previously I have done posts for 6-8 months old, 3-5 months old and 0-2 months old.

Here are some developmental milestones you may see when your preemie is 9-11 months old.

Gross/Large Motor

  • crawls on all fours
  • pulls to stand & lowers self to floor (changing position without falling)
  • cruises by holding onto furniture
  • stands alone

Fine/Small Motor

  • pokes at objects or pictures with an isolated finger
  • drops toys on purpose
  • picks up small items with index finger and thumb
  • plays with two toys at the same time

Social/Play Skills

  • finds a toy that has been hidden under a blanket, cup, etc
  • imitates facial movements (pucker lips, tongue out, etc)
  • participates in social games (peek-a-book & pat-a-cake)
  • indicates when he/she wants something


  • turns when name is called
  • imitates non-speech sound (tongue click, cough)
  • looks at familiar person when named
  • plays with toys while making appropriate sounds or words (car sound, "boom" for falling objects)
  • stops activity momentarily when adult says "no"

Ways to optimize your preemie's development

  • play social games with your preemie as much as possible
  • name objects to encourage vocabulary development (do you want the ball vs. do you want this or Look, here is the cow/horse/dog/etc)
  • Put your preemie on the floor with several different toys to play with
  • Offer choices - hold out two toys and ask (example: do you want the ball or the block?)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Favorite Product #26

This favorite product post is dedicated to the Fisher Price Brilliant Basics Shape Sorter.

Shape sorters are always fun. They teach some great skills and can last for a long time even as your preemie learns new things. I like the Fisher Price shape sorter (although I have the slightly smaller version) for several reasons. Simplicity - the container itself is very simple so that kids can more easily concentrate on putting the shape blocks inside. Removable lid - you can use this product to teach your preemie about putting items in or taking items out before he/she can shape the blocks which makes it a long lasting toy.

Here are some great ways to use this toy to encourage your preemie's development:

1) Put in/Take out - put all the blocks into the container and then take off the lid. Encourage your preemie to take the blocks out of the container. You may need to add additional items to the container so that they are closer to the top and easier to reach. Once your preemie has mastered this skill, encourage him/her to put the items back in.

2) Shape sorting - start with just one shape. Offer your preemie one block and then encourage your preemie to put it into the container. Use your hands to cover up all of the shaped holes so that it is easy for your preemie to put it into the correct spot. Offer new shapes and more options as your preemie masters the skill.

3) Same - Use the blocks to encourage your preemie to sort the blocks into the same color/shape piles. Show your preemie how two of the blocks are the same and then try and get him/her to do the same.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Insurance Tip: Managing Managed Care

Managing your insurance company can be a huge hassle. Multiple doctor visits, various procedures, changes in equipment, etc can make it difficult to ensure proper payment and coverage for your preemie. Here are some tips to help manage your "managed care."


  • Make sure you know what doctor, procedures, etc. need authorization prior to the visit. If you have an HMO, the restrictions can be quite specific so check in advance of having anything done.
  • Once you know when authorizations are required, make sure you get one! And make sure it is in writing. Our pediatrician is part of a larger HMO group so anytime we see someone outside of the practice we have to get authorization. I keep a copy of all authorizations with me so that I have it available if needed.
  • Don't go to an appointment without one! Some specialists may not realize you need an authorization. Insist that the authorization be in place before going to an appointment or you may be responsible for the full payment of the visit or procedure. Don't back down!

Check your statements:

  • Keep a notebook or file folder with all claims and benefits information/statements. File by provider so you can easily check records for exact payments made or issues involved.
  • If there is a note about non-payment, check to make sure there isn't something you need to do to get the process moving. Sometimes insurance companies request additional information from a doctor and they may not get it in time. Find out the cause and be proactive - call your doctor and remind them to send the files/information.

Procedures, Lab Work

  • Some lab work or x-rays have to be done at certain locations in order to be fully covered. Always follow the "know before you go" rule.
  • Unless it is an emergency, always go to the required lab/location for work to be done. A specialist may not realize you have this requirement so be assertive if necessary and let them know where you need to get work done. You don't want to be stuck with the bill later so a little extra leg work on your part is well worth it in the end.

The insurance category has more posts with insurance tips and advice, so make sure to read it!

And if you have a tip or advice to share, please leave a comment.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Updates Coming

My apologies for the recent lack of regular postings - things have gotten a bit crazy around here. The good news is that even if my hands can't do the typing, my brain does the thinking. Lots of new postings will be coming in the next few weeks including: week long features on dealing with emotions, the issues of having a preemie, siblings, etc., as well as new favorite products, sorting through insurance issues, more peeks into my preemie world, more NICU articles, and much more.

I'm looking forward to it and I hope you are too!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Life in our preemie world

This picture is one of the stories of our life right now. This blurry shot perfectly captures Olivia right now. Because we have a crawler on our hands. Ever since little girl finally got her whole body to figure out how to crawl she has been a blur of motion ever since. Occasionally she gets stopped by her oxygen cord (or her brother) but not for long. Off to find new things to get into, new drawers or doors to open, new books to pull off the shelf. She is so unlike her brother who was a model child in this area - he rarely opened cabinets or drawers unless they had his toys in them.

And so we adjust. We find new places to put things and new locks for the drawers. And our son learns that his cars can't always stay EXACTLY where he wants them to because his sister may have another idea about that. Like seeing how far she can throw them before someone notices :)
It's a challenge but a super fun one to watch because every moment is like a new discovery for her. And us.

What new skill has your preemie learned how to do recently?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Playing with Dolls

Having your preemie play with a doll or teddy bear is a great way to encourage language and communication skills. Therapists often call it symbolic play. Here are some tips for encouraging your little one to play and how to make a great "play box" for your preemie and his/her doll.

Finding a doll - for this type of play any doll or stuffed animal will do. Make sure it is one that has an obvious mouth (if you aren't using a doll). It should be big enough that your preemie can easily give the doll/stuffed animal a hug. The doll doesn't need to do anything fancy. Depending on the age or interest of your preemie, it may be helpful to name the doll or stuffed animal.

Play time - A doll is a great way to encourage symbolic play. Things such as giving the doll a hug/kiss, feeding the doll, putting the doll to bed, brushing the doll's hair are all good ways to encourage language and communication. You can also use the doll to help learn body parts. Our daughter likes to touch the feet on the doll and then touch her own feet. In the beginning you can show your preemie the doll and let him/her play or examine it (or in the case of my kids - drop it or poke it in the eye). Try one activity at a time - "Let's give the doll a hug." First you hug the doll and then encourage your preemie to do the same. Depending on your preemies interest, build in other activities slowly.

Play Box - You can easily create your own play box for the doll. Here is a picture of our play box along with a list of items that you need to create your own quickly and cheaply:
  • plastic box with an easy to open lid
  • blanket - I used one of my son's old receiving blankets that he didn't need anymore
  • spoon
  • small container for pretend food
  • hairbrush
  • toothbrush
  • Optional: bottle or sippy cup. The doll for my daughter came with a small baby-sized bottle but you can certainly use a regular one.
Happy playing!!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Favorite Product #25

This week's favorite product is the Epic Dental Xylitol Mints. I know you may be thinking mints? On a preemie blog? Really? But yes I am talking about mints. These mints are specifically designed to help prevent cavities. As a person who had numerous dental problems that weren't entirely my fault, I was very interested in these mints. I ordered some for my son a couple of years ago. As I'm sure many of you have experienced first hand, getting small kids to brush or to have their teeth brushed effectively is difficult. They wiggle, they squirm and they just don't want to have it done.

The great thing about these mints is that they taste good so my son thinks he is getting a treat. We give him a couple with his vitamins in the morning. I do try to be as avid a tooth brusher as possible however using these mints helps me feel a little bit better about the whole thing.

Adults can use them too. Epic Dental makes mints, gum, toothbrush and toothpaste. The Epic Dental site offers some great information on how their product works as well as tips for improving dental hygiene in kids. I would encourage you to check it out!

Happy Brushing!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Finding fun toys with objects in your house

Most parents can be tempted to purchase all of the latest and greatest toys for their preemie. Those toys are fun however if you are looking to save some money or just want to try something new, take a look around your house for things that you already have. Many household items can be turned into entertaining things for your preemie quickly and easily. Here's a list to get you started:

1) Tissue paper - this is a great item for preemies. Tissue paper can be used to play peek-a-boo, crumpled up for a nice sound effect game or ripped apart.

2) Pillows - small pillows can make for great fun. Lay some on the ground and make an obstacle course. Throw the pillow in the air and try to catch it. Practice pushing and pulling the pillow.

3) Paint brushes and water - water is always fun (in the right place). Grab some old paint brushes and head outside. Let your preemie "paint" the sidewalk and then watch it dry. Repeat again and again.

4) Empty containers - clean out any container that is clear and put some small toys/items inside. Let your preemie shake the container and watch the items go back and forth.

5) Simple ball drop - when preemies are first learning how to put things into a small hole/shape - it's easiest to start with one shape like a circle. Take an empty oatmeal container and cut a circle shape in the top. Use ping pongs (or any small type balls) and let your preemie practice dropping the objects in and then taking them out.

6) Wooden spoons/pots and pans - this is a classic game that is still fun. Pull out an old pot or pan and let your preemie bang on the bottom with a wooden spoon. If your preemie is older, let him/her pretend to cook with you in the kitchen

Simple Mom had some other great suggestions of cheap or free toys. Check it out for additional fun.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Favorite Product #24

This week's favorite product is the Mega Blocks 123 School Bus

I absolutely love this product. Honestly I find it a little bit funny because it is a school bus with attachable train like cars on the back. The important thing is that kids love this toy. Both my son and now my daughter fell in love with this school bus/train the moment they played with it. This toy is great because your preemie can move it around like a car but it also has large lego type pieces on top. These lego pieces easily attach and come off so even little ones can have great fun stacking and pulling them apart.

Here are some great ways to encourage development with this toy:

1) Pushing and pulling - show your preemie how the school bus can be pushed and pulled around. Sit across from your preemie and push the bus towards him/her. Encourage him/her to do the same. Make it a fun game to play. At first your preemie may just want to pick up the bus and check out the wheels or hand it back to you and that is okay!

2) Stacking - stack the legos on top of each other. Tell your preemie what you are doing and then encourage him/her to do the same. These blocks easily attach together so after a little practice your preemie should get the hang of it.

3) Same/matching and sorting - Once your preemie understands that things are the "same" or "different", use the legos to see if your preemie can put all of the legos together based on color. First practice sorting and then stacking them.

4) Numbers/counting - the lego blocks also have numbers on them so older preemies can stack them up by number. There are also blocks that have a specific number of items on it (i.e. 2 apples, 3 pencils, etc.). Honestly by the time my son was old enough to get the concept of counting he had long outgrown this toy however it's a great way to encourage your older children to play with your preemie together.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Developmental Post #20

The developmental post for this week is focused on helping your preemie stack blocks. Stacking blocks can be a fun but difficult skill for preemies to learn. My daughter has currently figured out that blocks can go on top of each other but she hasn't quite mastered getting them to stay.

Here are some ways to get your preemie to start stacking blocks:

1) Make blocks readily available - Make blocks a part of the toy options that you provide to your preemie. If you don't have any yet, I did a post about my three favorite type of blocks here. To help encourage stacking, I prefer to use either of these blocks: The Alphabet Peek A Boo Blocks from Fisher Price and Parents Counting Pal Soft Blocks. The soft blocks are big but easy to stack and squeezable. The Fisher Price blocks are a good size for little hands to hold on to however they are slippery.

2) Encourage simple playing with the blocks - my daughter loves to bang things together and blocks are a favorite banging toy. By playing with blocks on his/her own, your preemie will become comfortable with them.

3) Learn by example - Stack blocks with your preemie. Let him/her knock the blocks over. Stack them back up again.

Once your preemie starts getting the concept of stacking, he/she may need a little help. Our developmental therapist just gave me a great tip to help master stacking: add velcro to the blocks. With the velcro, the block will easily stay without requiring a perfect stacking job. You can use sticky velcro or glue some on. Remember to put velcro on the top and bottom of the block - use opposite parts of the velcro for easier sticking to other blocks.

Happy Stacking!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Life In Our Preemie World

Have you ever noticed that no matter how far your preemie has come, you can often find yourself thinking of the beginning?

This past Friday I had to take Olivia to Stanford for some testing. One of them required sedation so after it was done we had to stay in the PACU recovery area until she was fully awake. Even though she wasn't there for something serious and she came out of sedation fairly quickly, just being in the room surrounded by monitors, vents, nurses, etc. brought me right back to the NICU. Right back to the moments of fear and worry.

Thankfully this time I had a beautiful little girl to hug and take home right away.
Are there any specific things that can trigger a trip back to those NICU memories for you?

Favorite Product #23

This week my favorite product is geared towards organizing (or at least trying to) all of your preemie's toys. My favorite thing for holding toys is a large Fabric bin from Target.

When I had my son I developed a fairly bad case of Developmental-toyitis. Each time that our developmental therapist would bring something new to the house and explain how it helped encourage various developmental milestones, I figured I had to get it. I couldn't deprive my son of something he needed to learn, right? If only I had realized how easily kids learn with or without the fancy toys. But that's another story. Our daughter has inherited those toys (and more) and I quickly found that they were taking up too much space. I bought a few of these fabric bins from Target and divided the toys into each bin. Each week one bin came out of the room and that was it. At the end of the week, we swapped it for a new one. This was a great way to keep the toys new for our daughter and make our living room look less like a preschool. I also like the fabric bins because they are flexible - baby toys don't all nicely fit into square boxes so having the ability to toss them into the box easily is a definite bonus.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Developmental Post #19

This week's developmental post is focused on the developmental milestones of preemies who are 6-8 months old. Previously I have done posts for 3-5 months old and 0-2 months old.

If your preemie is 6-8 months old (adjusted), you can start to look for these developmental milestones:

Large/Gross Motor:
- Can sit up straight when in a high chair
- When she/he is on his/her stomach, can reach for a toy
- Can roll from back to stomach
- Can sit alone for one (1) minute
- Can crawl forward on stomach
- Can bounce up and down in a supported standing position

Small/Fine Motor:
- "Scoops" up a small piece of food using all fingers
- Can bang two objects together
- Holds a toy with fingers and thumb - without the touch touching his/her palm

Social/Play Skills:
- Holds and looks at a toy for at least one (1) minute
- Will explore toys (waves, squeezes,bangs, etc)
- Plays peek-a-boo with a cloth
- Smiles and reaches for self in mirror
- Claps hands in imitation

- Vocalizes consonant sounds
- Repeats same syllable 2-3 times (ma-ma, ba-ba, da-da)
- Imitates sounds that he/she already knows

Ways to optimize your preemie's development at this age:
- Put your preemie on his/her back and place toys out reach on one side to encourage him/her to roll over onto his/her stomach
- Let your preemie explore his/her environment. Place (clean and safe) toys in his/her mouth
- Encourage banging and sound production
- Continue talking, singing, smiling and laughing with your preemie

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Favorite Product #22

This favorite product post is actually dedicated to the preemie clothes found in RedSparks.

RedSparks is a fabulous online store devoted to preemie and newborn clothing and toys. The shop was started by the parents of a preemie. You can read their story on the site. What I love about their preemie clothing is that they feature adorable designs that you would also see on newborn sized clothing. Preemies need cute stuff too! Take a look at these pictures - there is some serious cuteness going on:
RedSparks also sells clothes for bigger kids too. Have fun shopping!

Favorite Products are featured weekly on this blog. To check out past entries, click here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Prevacid Savings

Calling all Parents of Preemies on Prevacid - did you know you can save up to $25 each time you fill a prescription for Prevacid?

Prevacid has a Beyond the Burn savings program that allows you to save up to $25 each time you refill your prescription. The program is free - all you have to do is submit some information and then they send you a savings card. The pharmacy will treat the card as a secondary insurance. Our insurance did require us to pay $25 each time so this program was love at first sight for me. I got the card yesterday and pretty much did a happy dance at the pharmacy counter when all I was charged was the tax for the medicine.

I hope some of you can take advantage of this program. It is actually for adults as well so pass it on to anyone you know who takes Prevacid. They do offer some nice tips, recipes, etc for helping stop reflux through dietary measures as well.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Developmental Post #18

This developmental idea/project comes courtesy of my sister. She just had a baby (full term) and yesterday she was telling me about a little project she made for him. I thought it was a great idea that would work well for preemies so I wanted to share.

As you probably know, when babies are small they can only see black and white. They like to look at high contrast pictures. Images such as checkerboards, circles, simple animal faces, etc. are a great way to keep a preemie interested and looking around. Here are some great, inexpensive ways to provide your preemie with some fun things to look at.

At home:
1) Paper plate faces - my sister took a black pen and drew simple happy faces on some paper plates and then hung them on her son's swing. This is a fast way to give your little one something to look at.

2) Paper mobile - create a simple mobile to hang over your preemie's crib, swing, diaper changing area or bouncy seat. Click here for some easy designs and instructions. Or create your own - you don't need to be an artist to draw faces, squares and circles for your little one to look at.

In the NICU:
When my daughter was in the NICU I cut out squares of paper with simple black and white designs on them. I covered each one in contact paper and then taped them to the sides of her crib. She really liked looking at them and I felt good being able to provide something simple and fun for her while she was in the NICU. Ask your preemie's nurse what is allowed in your NICU.

Developmental Tips are part of a weekly series. To read more developmental tips and ideas for preemies, click here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Book Recommendation

I just finished reading a book that you might be interested in. It's called I Will Not Be Broken by Jerry White.

The author is a recognized leader of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and co-founder of Survivor Corps (formerly Landmine Survivors Network). In 1984, Jerry lost his leg—and almost his life—in a landmine accident. He has endured the pain of loss and the challenge of rebuilding.

I Will Not Be Broken is a book devoted to helping people overcome a life crisis. I have to be honest with you. When the Survivor Corp's offered to send me a copy to read/review, my first thought was "this isn't right for me or my readers." Just to make sure, I read the first couple of chapters and found out more about the concept of the book. I quickly realized that this book WAS a good book for me and other preemie parents. Having a baby who is born premature is certainly a life crisis and the after effects of it can stick with you for a long time. There are a lot of books about prematurity but many of them don't deal with the personal feelings and deep impact that it can have on parents and other family members. There is a tremendous amount of guilt, confusion, anger, sadness, etc. that comes with having a baby born too soon. I definitely think this book can help parents get past the devastating effects of having a premature baby and the issues that come with it.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Jerry has put together five (5) steps for overcoming a life crisis. In between Jerry's own perspective and comments on the steps and how to get through them are stories from other survivors. The ability of these survivor's to not only just get on with things but to really live life after a crisis is truly inspiring. I felt motivated and encouraged just be reading their stories. The steps that Jerry discusses are:

  1. Face Facts - preemie parents have to do this step pretty darn fast. Whether you get 3 months or 3 minutes to "prepare" for a premature birth, it doesn't really hit you until you enter the NICU and see your little one hooked up to monitors, ventilators, feeding pumps, etc. You don't get time to take it all in and really digest it because right away you are there trying to make the right decisions for your little one.

  2. Choose Life - I've noticed that a lot of the time parents of preemies find themselves retreating from the world. Many people don't understand what you are going through and sometimes there can be too many things to deal with. It's important however to try and move past this and choose to be a part of the world. Take care of you and take care of your little one with the help of others.

  3. Reach Out - This is also important for preemie parents - finding a way to reach out. Whether it's through a hospital support group, an online message board, other parents in the NICU - finding a way to connect can help yourself and others through the painful process both in the NICU and at home.

  4. Get Moving - This is a tough one. Especially when your preemie is in the NICU. Try to keep going with your life. Make new goals and plans. Find a way to move forward (even if your little one is taking a step back at the moment).

  5. Give Back - I firmly believe in this step. Giving back can be a really great way to feel like you can help other parents and babies. Whether you volunteer for the March of Dimes, make hats for babies in the NICU or get involved in some other way, giving back can really help you feel better and move forward.

If you would like to find out more information about the book or the author, you can go here. Also, the author Jerry White is going to be on ABC's Good Morning America this Thursday August 7th at 8:45am. I would encourage you to listen in and see what you think.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Life in our preemie world

A couple of weeks ago we took the kids to ride on Thomas the Train. If you have Thomas fans in your house and have never been - I highly recommend it. They have a life size model of Thomas and you get to ride behind him on regular train cars. In addition to "riding" Thomas they also have crafts, trains to play with, jumpy houses, etc. Dominic has been a Thomas fan for several years so this was our third year getting to ride however it was Olivia's first year and I really wasn't sure how she was going to handle the experience. It turns out I didn't have to worry at all. She loves the motion of trains and was very interested in watching the beautiful scenery around us.

So interested. So intent. Loving every minute. Now that's what I call a fun day.

What do you like to do with your family?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Favorite Product #21

This week's favorite product post is dedicated to baby/infant bathtubs. I've featured my personal favorite as well as one of our reader's favorite bathtubs.

My daughter was born 4 months early and was very small however once we started using a feeding pump for her feedings, she quickly gained enough weight so that she was the size of her actual age vs. her developmental age. The problem? Developmentally she was very far behind (esp. in gross motor) so by the time she was big enough to outgrow the baby bathtub she wasn't anywhere near being able to sit up on her own.

This bathtub came to the rescue. One side has a sloped side for bath time "lounging" and the other side has support for sitting straight. It also comes with a newborn sling for the top however I never used it as my daughter was too old/big for that when I got the bathtub. Although it seemed awkward at first (to support the lounging there is a raised portion on the bottom) it really did work. My daughter could take her bath without needing my constant support which made it much easier to get her washed up and encourage her to play in the water.

This next bathtub comes from one of our readers - Martha. She recommends the Clean Water Infant Tub with Built-in Thermometer by 4Moms

I love the concepts behind this bathtub. It has a built in thermometer so you can tell how hot/warm/cold the water is at all times. Once we get our little preemie into the bath it's often hard to remember to check the water temperature to make sure it isn't getting too cold. The other cool thing about this bathtub is that you can constantly have the dirty water flow out and clean water flow in. The water goes through the thermometer part first so you know that any water coming in is not too hold/cold. What a nice way to keep your preemie warm and clean. Thanks for the suggestion Martha!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Feature: Life in our preemie world

I'm adding a new feature to the blog today - Life in our preemie world. I thought it would be fun to add some stories about my two preemies - Dominic and Olivia. I hope you enjoy the glimpse into our life with preemies.

In our house cars (or really anything that can be considered transportation) reign supreme when it comes to toys. Dominic's fascination with cars came early. He would stand at the front window of our house and watch the cars drive by. Often times the cars would honk their horn so his early word for cars was "beep beeps." When Dominic and his first set of Hot Wheels met it was love at first sight. We have since expanded into racing cars, monster trucks, more cars, trains, etc however cars are still a favorite.

I think the love continues with Olivia. She loves to watch Dominic race his cars around the floor or table. Occasionally we would sneak one over to her when Dominic wasn't looking. She liked to hold them and then play with the wheels. My mom thought that perhaps Olivia needed her own set of cars so she brought her a pack of Fisher Price cars. Nice big ones that were safe for a little person like her. Guess what? She wanted nothing to do with them. It was Dominic's cars or nothing. Probably should have guessed that one.

The picture above is from the other night. Dominic had some elaborate "event" that required him to have his monster trucks and cars from the Cars movie out at the same time. Now that Olivia is able to scoot around more she was over there as fast as possible. We decided that she needed her own bin of cars to sort through.

They were occupied for a good 1/2 an hour. Hmm. Perhaps mom has her own love of cars too.

Happy Thursday everybody!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Developmental Post #17

Letting preemies explore new textures can be a fun (sometimes messy) way to encourage language skills as well as fine motor skills. One of my favorite ways of doing this is to create a "rice box" and a water box.

Rice box - fill a large clear tub with rice (oatmeal or anything that doesn't break down easily will work well) about 1/3 full. Add in some small toys or objects like cups, sifters, etc. Anything that will encourage your preemie to touch and explore the rice.

Water box - basically the same concept as the rice box but with - you guessed it, water. This is an activity best played outside. In addition to toys for the rice box, I usually add in a paintbrush. Kids love to "paint" the sidewalk and then watch the water disappear as the sun dries it.

Developmental tips:

1) You play too! Get down on the floor/ground with your preemie and reach your hands in to the water or rice. Encourage him/her to do the same. Let the rice/water run through your hands and have your preemie watch what you are doing. Give him/her room and time to explore what's in the box once they are interested.

2) Dump and Pour - this is a great game for the rice and water. Show your preemie how to fill up a cup/container with rice or water and then dump it out If you have two containers - try filling up one container with the water/rice from the other.

3) Language skills - use simple words to describe what you are playing in. "Look, the water is wet. The rice feels soft" This will help your preemie start to develop his/her own language skills.

Most importantly - have fun!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Giveaway At Simple Mom

One of my favorite mom blogs is doing a giveaway that I thought some of you might be interested in. Just go to Simple Mom and follow the directions. While you're there - check out some of her great posts on organizing and keeping things simple in the crazy world of being a mom.

The giveaway is for a fabulous book - The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule. She also did a really great interview with the author that I highly recommend you read. Amanda has her own awesome blog that I consider a daily must read as well - Soule Mama. I love her approach to parenting and her blog makes me wish I lived next door so we could all hang out and just play (creatively of course).

I think this would be a great book for parents of preemies - especially during the RSV/Winter season when we are all stuck indoors for long periods of time with only each other for entertainment. Grab this book and keep yourself (and your little ones) entertained and having fun.

Good luck!

Favorite Product #20

This product post is devoted to my all-time-hands-down favorite product to take in my diaper bag for entertaining little ones during dinner, doctor's office waiting rooms, etc. It's the AquaDoodle Mini Mats.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the AquaDoodle concept, basically kids use water to draw pictures or "color" in hidden pictures. I love the mini mats because each set has different characters and comes with three different mats to "color." Kids use a special pen that you fill with water and once they put it on the mat, the picture appears in full color. Here is why I love these mats:

1) Once the mat dries, the picture disppears and can be used again. And again. And again. They last for a long time. Our oldest set is 2 1/2 years old and still works just fine.

2) This is great for kids of all ages - we first got a mini mat set when our son was two. We went out to dinner with friends and there were kids that ranged from 2 to 10 at the table. After a few minutes, the kids were all interested in the mats and taking turns coloring the pictures. It kept them all occupied (and quiet) while we waited for dinner. It was great!

3) Size - the mats are small so they can easily fit into a pocket of your diaper bag.

Developmental Tip:

These are great mats for small kids who are just learning the concept of "drawing." You can give them one of these mats and let them experiment with putting pen to paper without worrying about the mess they are making on your carpet or table. Sit with your preemie and show them how the color appears when they use the pen. Once they have mastered the concept on the AquaDoodle, give them some crayons and see what they do.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Developmental Post #16

Playing with Puzzles

Puzzles are a great way to work on fine motor and cognitive skills with your preemie. Your preemie can work on picking up pieces and putting them into the proper place. Puzzles help preemies work on making choices, recognizing simple shapes and hand strength and agility. For young preemies, the best puzzles are very simple with large pieces. You don't necessarily need to find one with knobs - personally I think that the simple ones with knobs are easier because your preemie can feel the sides of each shape without distraction. Bright, high contract colors are also great for beginning puzzles.

Here are some ways to incorporate puzzle play into your preemie's play time:

1) Introduce a simple puzzle. Let your preemie feel each piece. Show him/her how the pieces fit into the puzzle. Encourage your preemie to take the pieces out of the puzzle. Don't worry if your preemie puts them back in the right place or puts them back at all. This is all about getting the concept.

2) Putting pieces back in - once your preemie has mastered taking the pieces out, try and get him/her to put each one back into the puzzle. Once he/she gets the concept of putting pieces in, show him/her how each pieces goes into a specific place.

3) As your preemie masters the simple puzzles, slowly introduce new ones that are more complex.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New Feature

I wanted to let everyone know that I have created an Amazon store for all of the favorite products that I have featured on the blog. There is a link on the right hand side of the blog or you can access it here. I'm still playing around with it but right now it has most of the favorite products I've talked about as well as books and preemie books. I will update it weekly with new items including a section of books and activities for older kids. Hopefully it will make it easier for you to find additional product information.

I would also like to add a section for products that you consider favorites. So leave a comment or email me and let me know what your must-have-can't-live-without products are. I'll start featuring them on the blog as well!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Favorite Product #19

When it comes to favorite products for my preemies, books are always at the top of the list. This week's post is devoted to mini books - specifically the Fisher Price Little People Books.

These little books have become my new favorite go-to toy. They are small so several of them can fit into a diaper bag and each one has cute pictures of animals which makes for lots of developmental fun. My daughter loves these little books far more then some of the bigger ones we carry along. I think that she likes the fact that she can hold them herself. Each page is thick so she can easily grab it and turn to the next page. If you have older kids, these books are also good for stacking which can be an easy emergency activity if you are stuck in a waiting room or at a restaurant.

Here are tips to use these books to maximize development:

1) Animals - as you turn each page, tell your preemie what animal it is and make the sound that goes with the animal. As your preemie gets older, have him/her tell you the animal sound

2) Colors - books are a great way to start talking about colors - Look at the cow - he is brown, the grass is green, etc.

3) Numbers/counting - even if the book is not devoted to counting things you can still make a game of counting how many of each thing is on the page.

4) Touching/Pointing - as you turn each page make sure you pat the page and/or point to an object. This will encourage your preemie to do the same. This is a great way to teach your preemie to gesture/point towards things that he/she wants.

There are a lot of mini book sets out there today so I hope you find one that works for you and your preemie.

Have fun reading!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Developmental Post #15 - Who Are These People?

It can be difficult for preemies to have people visit them - even family and friends. People are often excited, loud, or they get close to your little one too fast and that can be frightening or over stimulating. This is especially true if your preemie hasn't seen them before or doesn't see them very often. Showing your preemie pictures of relatives and close friends is a great way to get him/her to feel comfortable with them before you see them.

Fun Projects:
Photo Album - Make a photo album with pictures of relatives and close friends. Create something simple and easy - a 4x6 album with slots for each picture is perfect. Make the album part of your daily reading. As you flip through each picture, point to the people and tell your preemie their name. Sound excited. Add in details - See this is Auntie Mary. She has brown curly hair just like you!

Photo Refrigerator - If your preemie is anything like my son, he/she may be fascinated with magnets. Take pictures of relatives and friends and put a magnet on the back. Put each picture on the refrigerator and allow your preemie to touch them. As she/he plays with them, tell her who the people are. Once he/she recognizes the people, make it a game. Can you bring me the picture of Uncle Steve? What about Cousin Matt?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Favorite Products #18 - 3 Favorite Blocks

This post is devoted to blocks - specifically three of my favorite sets. I absolutely love blocks because they can be so open ended when it comes to play time. You can stack them up, knock them down, build things or put them into something else. Here are three of my favorite sets along with some tips to use them to encourage development with your preemie.

Set #1: The Alphabet Peek A Boo Blocks from Fisher Price.

These are great blocks for preemies who have learned how to grab smaller objects. I like these blocks because they have fun little surprises in each one. My son loved to check each one out. They also have a nice texture on the top and bottom. They come in a variety of sets with different themes and colors.

Set #2 - Parents Counting Pal Soft Blocks

Our daughter received these as a gift and she LOVES them. They are nice and soft. These are a great size for preemies who like to hold large objects. Our daughter likes to bang two of them together. These are great blocks for stacking and knocking down.

Set #3 - ABC Building and Nesting Blocks

We have a similar set of nesting blocks - these are great fun. Our son got them as a gift and we kept them for our daughter too. Not only are they good for stacking but they also are great for preemies who like to put smaller objects into larger objects. Since they are made of cardboard, kids can easily grab onto them and they aren't heavy so stacking is easy as well.
Developmental Tips:

Banging - Blocks make great objects for preemies to practice banging together. Blocks with a slight edge (or ones that are hollow) are particularly good for this skill because little hands can grab onto them easily. As your preemie masters this skill, try giving him/her smaller blocks to play with.
Knocking Over - Before your preemie figures out how to stack blocks, he/she will love to knock them over. Start with just 3-4 blocks and encourage your preemie to knock them over. You can work on language skills as well by using one phrase (uh-oh, oh no) when they do get knocked over. You can also practice "ready, set, go" by saying it each time and knocking the blocks over after you say go.

Stacking Up - Blocks make the best toys for stacking. Once your preemie seems to understand this skill, try and have him/her practice with large blocks. If you have blocks in varying sizes, start with the larger ones and give your preemie the smaller ones to stack with (that way it's an easier base for him/her to put the small one on top). As your preemie masters this skill, you can use smaller blocks. This is also a great way to practice turn taking.
Have fun!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Reminder - Summer Colds

Just a reminder for preemies and parents a like, just because it's summer and the weather is warm doesn't mean that you won't get a cold. Unfortunately I speak from current, first hand experience. After spending the entire RSV/winter season cold free, my son and I have come down with a nasty cold. It made me realize that I have been much more lax about hand washing after trips to the store and getting other people to use hand sanitizer when they come in. I've gotten myself back into "winter" mode in terms of germs so hopefully we can stay cold-free for the rest of summer.

If you're looking for ways to stay healthy, check out the Going Out and Great Soap Showdown posts for suggestions about keeping germ free.

Enjoy a warm and hopefully cold free summer!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Developmental Post #14

One of the biggest "milestones" that doctors and parents like to look for is the ability for a preemie to hold his/her head up while on his/her tummy. Once they can hold up their head than preemies should be holding themselves up with their elbows and then extended arms. A lot of preemies (and babies in general) don't particularly like tummy time so getting to these milestones can be difficult. It can be even harder if your preemie has low muscle tone.

I have found that for both of my preemies, propping up their chest helped them figure how to pick up their head. You can use a medium-sized towel, blanket, swim noodle (cut in half) or mini-boppy. Anything that will help lift your preemie's chest without causing his/her arms to be too extended.

Once you put the prop under your preemie's chest, bring his/her arms forward so that they are in front of the towel (or whatever item you have chosen). Based on your preemie's abilities, he/she may be supporting his/herself on elbows or extended arms. If your preemie needs more help, try placing your hand on your preemie's bottom and gently pushing downward. This can help anchor your preemie so that he/she can lift up his/her head and push upwards with his/her arms.

Place a mirror or favorite toy(s) in front of your preemie so that he/she can stay interested in being on his/her tummy. Talk about the toys and help your preemie reach out to feel or play with the toy. Get down on the floor too so that you are directly in front of your preemie - up close face time with mommy or daddy is always an enticing time for your preemie.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Insurance Tip - Double Coverage

If you are able to have insurance coverage for your preemie from both parents than make sure you take advantage of it! Here are some things to do so that you can maximize the benefit of dual coverage for your preemie:

1) Provide insurance information to all providers - make sure that the hospital, doctor's offices, medical equipment providers, etc. all have information for both insurance policies. If they don't have it than they won't be able to bill properly.

2) Co-pays - if you have dual coverage than you shouldn't have to pay any co-pays at the doctor's office. Let them know that you have double coverage and then they can bill your secondary insurance for the amount. I didn't know that so we paid a lot of money that we shouldn't have.

3) Non-covered amounts - if your primary insurance only covers a percentage of an equipment rental or doctor visit, make sure that your secondary insurance is billed for the difference.

Make sure you always ask if the secondary insurance has been billed or will cover any additional money owed - most of the time they will so you won't have a lot of out of pocket expenses.

Coming Up This Week

Many apologies for the lack of posts last week - we had a very busy week and weekend. This week will have extra posts to make up for it including developmental information, favorite products, insurance tips, and more!

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Toy? What toy?

Raise your hand if any of these situations have happened to you:

1) After days/weeks/months of being stuck inside, you finally decide to brave a restaurant. Like the prepared mom that you are, you have dutifully packed the diaper bag full of your preemie's favorite toys. The ones that he/she could play with for hours at home. Five minutes after being seated, all of those toys are on the ground and your preemie is getting close to a meltdown.

2) You're running late so you grab the diaper bag without looking inside and head to the car. When you arrive at the doctor's/friend's house/store you realize that there are no toys in the diaper bag. None. And your preemie is not happy about it.

If any of those situations (or something similar) has happened to you, never fear. I am the mom of a preemie who sometimes prefers anything but a toy to play with (or has become bored of her toys quickly) so I have created a list of things you can use as toys/entertainment when needed.

Paper - all kids seem to love paper. Give your preemie a piece of unimportant paper and let him/her crinkle it, rip it, shred it, whatever keeps him/her happy.

Sugar packets - these are great because they make noise when you shake them. They also come in different colors and can be stacked, put in a container, moved around, etc. If you have older kids, ask them to count how many of each color there is, stack them to compare the size, create a pattern, etc.

Water bottle - for my daughter a water bottle can be like magic. Especially one that is only 1/3 full. You can swish the water back and forth. Shake it to see bubbles. Roll it back and forth, etc. Arrowhead has a new bottle that is much easier to squeeze (and it makes noise).

Watch - My daughter loves to play with my husband's watch. You can put your watch on your preemie's wrist to see what he/she does.

Remote for your car - If you know that you have parked far enough away that your little one won't set off the alarm, give your preemie the remote for your car. Let him/her press the buttons.

Crackers - Give your preemie a packet of saltines to play with. The package makes noise and they can squash the crackers inside.

Sunglasses (especially if they are cheap or their own) - my daughter loves to play with her sunglasses. They have elastic on the back so she can bite it, chew on them or just play with them. Since they are hers, it's okay if she gets drool on them or drops them on the ground.

Diapers/Wipes - hand your preemie a clean diaper and/or wipe. Getting the chance to open/close the diaper or feel the wipe can be enough to calm your preemie down (at least for a few minutes).

"Look at that" - if you are in a new environment, start pointing out various things. Sound as excited as possible about each thing.

Just remember: If you are giving your preemie something that isn't a toy, keep an even closer eye on him/her to make sure they aren't chewing/swallowing/touching something they shouldn't.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Favorite Product #17

I had an entirely different product in mind for my favorite product of last week however when this product came in the mail on Friday, I had to write about it.
The favorite product for this post is Oopsy Daisy Rinse Free Shampoo.

This product is great - it was invented by a mom (of course) to quickly and easily clean up a child's hair after they have made a mess of it in their highchair. You know the moment, when your little one takes his/her food covered hands and puts them onto his/her head. Usually that means an instant bath. And usually it is at the most inopportune time.
This product is a no rinse shampoo. And it is in a foam form so you can easily get it onto your child's head. You put it on your child's hair just like shampoo and then towel it off . No water needed. After that you can comb his/her hair like normal. Now your baby's hair is clean and soft (and food free). The smell is nice too - it's a mix of vanilla, orange and lavender. Even better? It is made with all natural ingredients.
Although it is called high chair hair care, I actually bought it for a slightly different reason. My daughter is oxygen dependent so her nasal cannula is held onto her face with very expensive "stickers." Once you wash her hair, they get wet and then they don't stick as well. So often I wash her hair every other bath. Which means that her hair starts looking a little flat. So when I saw this product I knew I had to at least try it.
I opened the package the instant I got it and was not disappointed. A little bit of foam went a long way. My daughter has curly hair and if her hair hasn't been washed in a couple of days then it looks flat and lifeless. This product brought her curls back and made her hair look nice again!! This product is definitely a keeper for us.
If you have messy eaters or your kids need their hair washed more often, than I encourage you to try this product out.