Yet another way of empowering parents, caregivers and teachers.

Let’s be honest, as it gets darker and colder, no one really wants to take young children to the park. It’s always been remarkable to me that children don’t seem to feel the frigid temperatures in the same way adults do. From an educators’ standpoint, gross motor work at a park or playground is important for all children and can be incredibly helpful for children with special needs. Having said that, anyone who spends time with young children knows that running around is essential!

I could go into a long explanation of the value of outdoor play, but instead I will share with you Educators Secret #147: Grabber Hand Warmers. (Ok, truth be told, I picked that number indiscriminately, but the item is still fantastic!) Cracking one of these little gems and keeping it in your pocket will keep you toasty while your children run like lunatics. I buy the packs of 10 pairs. If you want to make them really economical, use 1 instead of 2 and pass them from one pocket to the other. While the link brings you to, I recently purchased them at an even lower price at TJMaxx.

Note: Stay tuned for Part 2: Gross motor activities to do indoors, when even hand warmers can’t help!

Next time you and your child are faced with a problem, try this out!

Take out a large piece of paper and a marker and tell your child you are going to do some important work.  Children love to be involved with making lists and writing words.  It makes them feel very grown-up.

Write down your child’s thoughts, feelings and concerns about the issue, and then write down your own.

Ask your child, “What can help you?”  Or, “what can we do?”  Depending upon your child’s age, tell them you need 3-5 ideas.  You can offer some ideas as well, particularly if your child is having a hard time getting started.

Next, read back the ideas and ask your child if he or she thinks the idea will work.  Cross out any ideas that you aren’t comfortable with, explaining to your child why you want to take that one out.  Cross out any that your child thinks may not be helpful.

Together, choose the best solution and put it to work!  This is a great activity for helping children remember to brush their teeth in the morning or put their toys away.  It can also be used for many issues that come up between siblings and peers.  In that case, each child would have the opportunity to come up with a few solutions.  This is a helpful technique for the classroom as well.

Just like when eating vegetables, children are more apt to try something if they’ve been involved in preparing it!

Today I walked down a New York City street and noticed three young children on leashes.  Sure, two were dressed up as cute little monkey backpacks with tails for the parents to hold on to, but still….they’re leashes.  After years working with toddlers, 2s and 3s, I get it.  They can have selective listening, can be impulsive, they want to do everything by themselves.  For some children, leashes (or backpacks with tails, if you prefer) may seem unavoidable, but before you buy one, here’s something to try:

When children are young, play the “Stop and Go Game.”  Stay in a safe area like the park, a quiet sidewalk, or even your hallway.  Hold your child’s hand and shout “Go!”  Run a few feet, throw your arms out to the sides and shout “Stop” or “Freeze!”  Now do it again!  Make it fun!  The children will think they’re playing but they’ll really be learning to be safe and to listen closely to your words.  Next time you are walking down the block and they are going farther than feels comfortable for you, play the game.   Depending upon what you feel is safe, you can change it up by using the words “walk,” “jump,” or “run.”  Remind them that on the street, the rule is to “stop” or “freeze” when their grownup calls out the word.

It takes some practice, but it sure beats the alternative!

If you have other questions about keeping your child safe on the street, email me at

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Stefanie Weiss, a mental health counselor specializing in OCD, ANXIETY, PANDAS, ADHD and other related mental health disorders. Stefanie’s services offer parents a unique opportunity to have their children’s, and their own, needs met by individually-selected and top-rated doctors and therapists.  Stefanie guides each family through the steps of exploring their children’s needs and finding techniques, treatments, and specialists that will be most effective.





“Stefanie is a Mental Health Consultant specializing in OCD, Anxiety, ADHD, PANDAS, and other related mental health disorders. She meets with the parents of children who have these disorders so that they can speak openly  and honestly about their child. Based on an in- depth consultation and intake process, they collaborate on selecting a team of doctors that will be most appropriate for the child.

Stefanie gives families information on their child’s disorder and coaches parents on how to deal with their schools, teachers, friends,and doctor appointments. She is a true “hand-holder” guiding parents who feel anxious and overwhelmed, and need that extra time and support while dealing with their child’s disorder.  As a mother of three children, she is extremely sensitive to what parents require emotionally.  Working with Stefanie is a boutique experience. Stefanie only refers to a select group of doctors that are the very best in their field. She has thoroughly interviewed every doctor that she refers to.  This process is vital to her. It helps her observe the doctor’s bedside manner, personality, office staff, and experience with specific disorders.

Stefanie believes that parents have a hard time gaining the courage to take the initial step of seeking professional help for their children. Going to the “right doctor” the first time puts families on the right track immediately, instead of going through a daunting process of 3 or 4 doctors until they finally find the one that they connect with and believe in. She helps make that process easier by getting parents in the right hands immediately. This saves them time, money, and energy. Exposing yourself and your child emotionally is a difficult step. Stefanie makes sure families are comfortable and confident with whom they select.” Post: Will Going To Therapy Make the Situation Better or Worse ?

Recently on her blog, Stefanie broached the topic of whether going to therapy would make a situation better or worse.  The first step towards seeking out any type of help can be a scary one.  Whether you are choosing to bring your child for an evaluation, to physical or play therapy, etc. or going individually with a  spouse to see a psychologist or parent educator, you are making a conscious effort to improve your family life and relationships.  For this, I applaud your courage.  To read Stefanie’s post:


Contact Information:

Stefanie Weiss

320 E. 65th Street               Suite 124               New York, NY 10065               646.543.0426 485 Underhill Blvd.               Suite 107               Syosset, NY 11791               516.641.7926





Join me and Big City Moms

on February 7th, 2012 at 11:30am  for

“Playing With Your Baby”

The first 6 months of your baby’s life are an incredible period of growth and a great opportunity for bonding.  During this lunch you will learn about typical development and creative ways to support your baby through play.   You’ll hear about developmentally appropriate ways to interact with your infant, with a focus on activities for when you’re cooped up in the cold weather.  We’ll also disuss which baby items are must-haves and which are nice-to-haves.  And, of course, there will be plenty of time for Q & A.”

Where:Kidville – 163 East 84th St

Cost: $35 for mom and baby in advance, $40 at the door

RSVP: or 917-488-8542



By now many of us have read L. Alan Sroufe’s opinion on the use of medication for people, specifically children, with ADD.  He discusses the short term benefit and his belief that in the long term they do nothing for behavior or concentration.  He describes ADD as “problems with attention, self-regulation and behavior.”  Perhaps most strikingly he cites environment and “parental intrusiveness” as causes for Attention Deficit Disorder.  Now, I am not a researcher or doctor, and will not attempt to dispute medical findings (though having read many studies, I wonder what details may have been left out of this article to prove a point).  But in the same way that blaming autism on the “refrigerator mother” was a harmful generalization, misleading, insensitive, and useless, so to is this.

Giving medication to children with ADD should be a choice made by an individual family, for their individual child, with the help of their individual doctor.  In my work I have seen both children who benefit greatly from medication and those for whom medication has been ineffective.  I have seen medication give children the concentration they need to learn coping strategies for managing their “inattention, self-regulation, and behavior” that they otherwise would not have been able to learn.  Again, I won’t argue with medical findings Sroufe includes in his article (though they should be read in full before I”d confirm their value), but in my opinion, he spends far too much time discounting possible remedies and placing blame, rather than offering ways to help.

Below, a link to the original article, a sensitive, well-written, thought-provoking reaction from a parent (one without a child with ADD), and two point by point rebuttals from Harold S. Koplewicz, MD and Edward Hallowell, MD.  Have a thought?  Reaction?  Success or challenge with an ADD/ADHD “treatment?”  Please share it here!

NY Times Opinion: Ritalin Gone Wrong

by: L. Alan Sroufe


NY Times Motherlode: If Ritalin Has ‘Gone Wrong,’ What’s the Right Way to Cope?

by: KJ Dell’Antonia


“Righting the Record on Ritalin: Why the slam on medications for ADHD is misleading”

by: Harold S. Koplewicz, MD. President Child Mind Institute


Ritalin Redux: This popular and beneficial ADHD medication gets a bad rap

by: Edward Hallowell, MD.

Recently, in many of my parent groups and private sessions, tantrums seem to be the topic of choice.  Tantruming is not new to childhood but it seems that every day an expert has a new way to end your child’s tantrums. I say stick with the tried and true…

Before your child tantrums, think about what sets them off.  Why does he or she tantrum?  Think about where your child is developmentally.  Is your 3 year old having a tantrum because you won’t give him something he wants?  Is your 19 month old tantruming because she’s lost control of herself?

When a toddler has a tantrum it is often because they are melting down, tired, or hungry.  Whatever the cause, a toddler does not have the tools to calm their bodies and regain control on their own.  They need you.  At this age I recommend that you sit on the floor next your child, tell them you see they are having a hard time and that you are going to help them calm down.  Some like to be held, others do not want to be touched.  You can ask your child what they prefer, or just try what you think might work and see what happens.  To be clear, this doesn’t mean to give in if the child is demanding something, it just means that you are giving your child what they need.  Something, at that moment, that a toddler can not do for themselves.

As your child gets older, think about their temperament and try these techniques:

Reflect your child’s emotions.   Bend down so that you are level with their eyes.  Try saying, “You are so mad (fill in the emotions) right now.  I know you really wanted that 5th scoop of ice cream but you may not have it.  I understand that makes you feel angry and sad.”  Then move on.  Give your child a choice, should we play with blocks next or take out the crayons.

Give positive alternatives.  Explain to your child that banging that block on his infant brother’s head is not a choice, but he can bang the block on another block, or play the drums if he feels like banging.  Remind your child that banging on another person’s body is not safe.  Ask, “where do you think is a safe place to bang?”

Keep it light.  Use a little humor to diffuse the situation.  When your child is begging you not to go out to dinner, remind them that you have to come home to sleep in your bed.  Ask them “Can grown-ups sleep in a restaurant?  A car?  On the table?  No! How silly!  Grown-ups have to come home to sleep in their beds.”  We even use this idea during the separation process at school.  When your child is having one of those delightful moaning tantrums, reflect their feelings and be silly.   “You are so mad, I wonder if you can stamp your feet as loud as I can.”

Ignore it.  There are times when a child begins to have a tantrum, that the best thing you can do is simply ignore it.  Check in to be sure your child is safe, but keep yourself out of the tantrum.  If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there to see it…

Remove them from the situation.  This idea can be interpreted in two ways.  For some children, having a conversation with their grown-up while being distracted by the item they want, the child who has it, or something else that is happening in the environment, is just too much.  For these children, removing them from the situation can mean going into the next room to work through the tantrum in a quieter place.  That being said, sometimes there is no other option than to remove your child from the situation entirely.  If your child has gone past the point of no return, leaving will often give them the opportunity calm their bodies in a less stimulating environment and help them understand that their behavior is unacceptable.

Deciding how to deal with tantrums has a lot to do with your child’s temperament.  I say this often: Parents know their children best.  Think about your child and the way they handle different situations.  Children give us a lot of information every day, from whether they need to be prepared for something new a week before or an hour before, to how to handle their tantrums.  When a tantrum begins, assess the situation, decide on a technique, and set the limit.  Do not tolerate unacceptable behavior.  The consistency in your reactions to tantrums, as with any other behavior, will help your children develop their ability to regulate their own emotions and behaviors.  You can do this!

More questions?  Ask!


Many parents go through a period where they struggle to understand what their children are telling them.   In more challenging situations, parents can have a hard time connecting with their babies.  I often suggest they try considering these times in a new framework.  Consider parenting to be a dance.

Starting from the first moment you hold your infant in your arms, you have to learn about your partner.  Parents must consider the way their children move, the way they speak, sound, and smell.  What type of rhythm do they like?  And just to make it slightly more complicated, each partner or child is different, and as children grow and develop, the dance changes a bit.  Then slowly but surely, you learn how to move fluidly together.

Little by little, you begin to understand who your babies and children are, what works for them, and how to enhance their development and interactions.   You learn the signals that the music is about to change, when to take a step closer and when to take a step back.  Over the years you begin to easily recognize when you partner needs to perform solo, and when only a parent partner will make the dance seamless.  Parenting is a living entity.  Allow for the time to reflect on your partner and the dance.  You’ll be “dancing with the stars” before you know it.  You can do this.

I can’t tell you how many times I hear from parents and friends that they bought their child a wonderful new toy, and the child was more fascinated by the cardboard box.  My father, beaming with pride, recounts the story of buying a new refrigerator in the late 1970′s and giving my ecstatic brother the box to play with.  Surely that was the start of his later architecture career!  I am a constant proponent of simplicity in children’s toys.  Toys don’t need bells and whistles, though they can certainly be fun, novel and exciting.  But as so many of us strive to help create a “greener” world, I think about what is available to us on a day to day basis that can help support our children’s development.  With that in  mind, I give you my “Top 5 Ways to Use a Cardboard Pizza Box with Young Children.”

1. Art Activities- Turn that old, or new, pizza box inside out and upside down to make an easel.  Tape paper to one side and let your children paint or draw at their very own tabletop easel.  Or create a collage.  You can put chalkboard contact paper on one side so that children can use chalk.  Cut out the shape of a picture frame and let your children create their own gift for someone special.  Lay the box and you have a disposable messy tray that keep glue, paint, and materials in a contained spot.  Terrific for very young children as they are introduced to art materials and play dough.  The possibilities are endless!

2. Make a Tunnel- Children will love driving cars, trains and other vehicles under and through and upside down pizza box.  They can paint or color the outside to decorate it.  A great way to expand your child’s play.

3. Storage- How many pieces of artwork do your children come home with each day?  And where do you store it?  Pizza boxes are the perfect place to put drawings, collages and other artwork so that they don’t get crushed.  Simply label the outside with your child’s name and the year and put it up on a shelf.  You can stack them year after year.  You can also store rubber or foam stamps, as well as are projects that need to be completed at another time.

4. Special Needs- Cardboard boxes are being used to make adaptations for children with special needs.  From slant boards to inserts for chairs, cardboard from a pizza box is an inexpensive way to support your child’s development.  Read more at:

5. Dramatic Play- The uses of a cardboard pizza box in this area are endless.  Children can make paper pizzas and create their own restaurant and delivery service.  Pizza boxes can become building blocks or roofs, ramps and floors for structures your children have already built.  You can even create a puppet theatre for and with your children by cutting a window in one side of the box.  Add curtains and let the children decorate it.  This works particularly well with finger puppets.

*Bonus Activity-Cut circles or squares in one side, big enough for a bean bag or small ball.  Turn the box upside down, let your children decorate it and you’ve created your own toss game, like one you might find at a carnival!

Giving Thanks

November 24th, 2011 | Posted by Dana in behavior | children | connections | parenting - (2 Comments)

Today on Thanksgiving, but really every day, it is important to think about raising children who are thankful and appreciative.  How can a parent or teacher instill these traits in children?

When children are about 18 months old, they can repeat the phrase “thank you.”  While they will not truly understand what it means until they are about 3, and will probably need prompting to use the phrase for quite some time after that, it is essential to make the words and the sentiment part of their environment from infancy.  Do you say thank you to the mailman?  The doorman?  The bank teller?  Involve your children when you help others.  Thank them when they have been cooperative.  Ask your young child to help draw pictures for a thank you card and write down the words they would like to say.

Many families have a tradition of asking each member what they are thankful for.  Young children sometimes have difficulty answering the question.  Try reframing it as “Who do you say thank you to?” or “What do you say thank you for?”

Be sure to model gratitude and empathy.

When children live it, they learn it!