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.