Friday, February 28, 2014

Alex's Fear

Its always amazing to me how some kids have to live in fear.  I wish no child ever experienced that feeling. I have seen increasing "fear" in Alex as he lets us in on more of his life and experiences.  From what I can tell his life was relatively good, but birthmom wound up in jail and Alex was passed from family member to family member before he was placed here.  As we were shopping for some clothes he told me he had never lived somewhere like this before, "You take care of me AND keep me safe".  Like it was an either or sort of situation, and in his case I think it was.  Some family kept him safe but couldn't meet his needs and others met his needs but put him in unsafe environments.  Alex is registered for school, he started Thursday.  He couldn't believe how nice his teacher was and that he had made friends. His DHS worker came by the house yesterday. I knew it would be interesting when he called to introduce himself.  I asked how he was and he said, "Yous know I be maintain'n."  When I told Alex he was coming he told me, "I hate that guy".  I asked him why and he told me he always comes to take me away and put me in bad places and he never tells me what's going on.  Alex then his under his bed when he heard him pulling up.  It took some coaxing and reassuring that he was not coming to take him away to get him to come out.  Well when the DHS worker showed up I quickly saw how communication with Alex was probably not his strongsuit.  I couldn't even get a coherent sentence out of him, it was all "Yous know....um, well Yous know".  Ummmm no I do NOT know, that is the point, I have NO clue what is going on in this case, this is the first time Ive talked to you??!!  Let me give you a visual of the DHS guy, some gold teeth, gold sunglasses (its cold, snowy, and dark here!), pants hanging off his butt and a sideways hat to top it all off.  Oh my....fun times.
Today as the boys were playing Cops and Robbers outside Alex kept telling me he heard gunshots and people screaming (more like a little girl playing a few houses over and a car door).  He was terrified.  I keep reassuring him he is safe here and will keep doing so.  Looks like visits may be starting with mom at the prison soon.

Monday, February 24, 2014

2/24/2014 Super Busy Day and hoping this is not a sign of whats to come...

Today was REALLY busy! We dropped off R1 last night so got a later start on the bedtime routine than I would have liked!  This morning we needed to get out the door super early to get Alex to his school in another county.  I did the best I could with a "uniform" for him, he thought they needed blue pants and a white shirt.  I was able to get a pair of blue corduroys that fit him in the waist, but were way to long and a light blue button down shirt.  Got him over to the school at 7:30 and walked him to the office (with my three boys in toe).  I briefly explained what was going on and that the Caseworker would probably be picking him up cause the dismissal time was not feasible for me to get there.  Another lady in the office began yelling at me that I'm not allowed to drop him off before 7:45, by this time it was already 7:40.  I explained that this was all very sudden and I had to get my other boys to school too and I'm sure the caseworker would get everything straightened out, but they needed to let Alex sit here for the 5 freaking minutes!!!  It is crazy how little education professionals (and medical professionals) understand the foster care system or the foster parents role.

Next, I took Matthew to school, then Joel and James got dropped off at preschool.  Whew after that I had to rush over to a testing center about 20 minutes away and take some licensing exams to have my teaching license transferred to this state.  I'm hoping to be able to get an online teaching position for next year so I can still work from home.  Took the tests, passed!  Check one off my to do list.

Okay raced back to pick up the boys from preschool and over to have lunch with Grandma.  Then passed Joel over to Grandma and took James over to a Psych Eval appointment (we have to do one every two months now for insurance purposes).  This eval was with the same lady as the last one she irritates me. Once again at the end her recommendations for me were not in line with any , professional working with kids who have endured early childhood trauma and attachment issues.  Furthermore, when she found out we had a foster placement she began asking me some questions that were none of her business, "Why are you taking in more kids, it would seem to me you would be overwhelmed with the ones you have?" My response, "No not overwhelmed.  I'm a foster parent its what I do.  I enjoy it this boy fits in great with our family and needs a home. We are happy to provide it for now!"  Her next question, "Well the other three are adopted right?  You're not looking to adopt anymore are you?"  Mind you these were asked dripping in condensation!  My response, "Not particularly but I'm not against it."  Ill admit the last time we were in her office I did get a bit emotional, but she told me my kid was brain damaged and would never recover, which is just an idiotic thing to say!  And regardless cant someone just have a bad day?!  This is why its so hard to share things with people, there is such judgment and blame on the choices rather than support.  Yes I had a bad day I was feeling overwhelmed on that day, everyone feels overwhelmed occasionally.  If I were pregnant with a fourth child would she have still thought it was her business to express her opinion? Grrr.....next time I want to switch to a different evaluator, but then I have to go through the whole history again, blah.

After that ordeal was over, we met Grandma and Joel over at the car place to drop off my car for inspection.  Then we headed back to my house with Grandma,  a few minutes later CW brought Alex home and gave me some paperwork.  This evening I was able to look it over and find some names to stalk on facebook, eye opening to say the least.  Lets just say I don't think the birth parents would be happy with him being in my home.  They have some pretty strong beliefs/opinions.  From my stalking I also found court records so it looks like birthmom will be away for another 8-20 months.   Mind you I got NO information from the caseworker.

Then it was time for Mobile Therapist to arrive.  Shortly after he came Grandma left with Grandpa and we got started with therapy.  The therapist even pointed out how much easier it seemed with the four of them opposed to the three.  SO far it seems like having Alex here really breaks up the trauma bond between the three of them.  James and Alex are really hitting it off and James seems to be modeling some good play skills from Alex.  We will see how long it lasts but right now I am happy.  Matthew is still adjusting but doing pretty well, I knew he would have the hardest time despite him being the most vocal about wanting more kids.  Its giving us some great opportunities to practice skills and have conversations.  I've been trying to carve out some extra time in the evenings for us to spend together.

And now everyone is finally in bed :)  Have to register James for Kindergarten and get Alex transferred to our local school tomorrow!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

2/22/2014 Placement Arrived!

Our day started off following the new Saturday Schedule, it was going brilliantly!  The boys all read quietly in their rooms while I took my shower and then downstairs we went for a morning meeting to go over the schedule.  In fact all morning the boys were asking me, "Are we on schedule?".  We went to the library where I paid my insane library fines of almost 40 bucks...that's right we have problems, lol! When it came to nap time I got everyone settled in their rooms with some books and toys and headed down to take my break from reality and catch up on some Netflix while I cleaned.   That didn't last long because shortly after nap started I got a call to come pick up our placement (we will be giving him the blog name:  Alex), they found him!!!  OR rather the kinship placement dropped him off at the county office with nothing but the clothes on his back and his Nintendo DS.  County called over to our agency (who is relatively closed on weekends) and the emergency on call worker went and got him bringing him to the visitation center.  They called and we were off. 
He is an adorable little boy who played all afternoon, like REALLY played, got out trains and built railroads, drove around the firetruck pretending to rescue people, this was totally out of my element!  All the kids I've had thus far do not PLAY other than ramming things into things and pretending to "fight".  It was great for Joel, he jumped right in with him. 
I had several conversations with Alex over the afternoon, he asked to go back to the county office or when I was going to take him home to his kinship placement.  It appears no one explained anything to him and the kin told him they were coming back to get him when they dropped him off.  His regular caseworkers weren't working since its the evening.  I really didn't have any answers for him as I was expecting to discuss the case when his caseworkers dropped him off Friday...which never happened.  The on call person at my agency had NO clue what was going on and was understandably confused about everything.  My agency does not get calls after hours it is unheard of so she was really thrown for a loop.  Anyway Alex told me a little about his family and past few living arrangements.  He told us all that he was scared cause usually when he moves houses they take him to "bad places".  The other boys did a great job telling him that this was a safe house and showing him all the toys.  At bed time he went right up and was ecstatic at how "cozy" the bed was, he fell right asleep nice and early....a boy who could really fit in here lol :)
Ill probably have to get him to his old school a county over on Monday (he tells me they have uniforms, we will have to wing that unless I can get out and shop tomorrow with 5 boys).  I have several licensing examinations I need to take first thing Monday morning that I cant miss.  I have no idea what time his school starts either and cant really tell online.  The on call worker was trying to put together a call for tomorrow with caseworkers but I don't see that happening. 
Things are going much better with R1 this weekend, everyone knows each other so it seems to run smoother and the schedule has definitely helped.  His birthmom did call my cell phone today once earlier in the afternoon.  The conversation was short and sweet and she said she would call back at 7 before bed.  The 7 oclock call was not as easy, the discussion was bordering on inappropriate and probably crossed the line.  It was of course focused entirely on her and contained too many adult things such as whether she still loved his father and some argument with an aunt.  I was proud of R1 though when I heard him say, "Well you need to figure your life out because I DO NOT LIKE THIS AT ALL!!!".  I don't really know anything of his situation but I hope things work out for him, he is such a hoot and fun to be around, makes me sad to think that they are missing out on his life and his spirit is dampened by all that he has to deal with in the system.
Looking forward to another day with 5 boys tomorrow!

2/21/2014

I received a call about a placement for a 7 year old boy today, being removed from his second kinship home due to kin's "non-compliance".  Who knows what that could mean?  Maybe not getting the child to school or medical appointments.  My forever boys came from a kinship placement, but were being removed due to more abuse/neglect occurring within the kinship home.  I was told he had some "aggression" issues and they were looking into getting counseling set up for him.  He is in another county but the county has ok'd a move to our local school if necessary.  He has no visits currently as birthparent is incarcerated.  I agreed to the placement and he was to arrive at 3:30. At 4:30 I got a call that they could no locate the child or kinship caregiver.  At 5:30 they still had not been located, DHS will call if they turn up this weekend otherwise I should here from the agency on Monday.

R1 (Respite placement- 8yo boy)  arrived for another weekend at 6:30.  His foster mom called me around 7 to tell me she had given my number to birthmom and she would be calling??!!  Um maybe you should have checked with me first before giving out my number?  Of course no call ever came anyway.  I worked on getting our Saturday schedule together and printed to try and reduce electronic time.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

2/20/2014

I listened to a great interview with Bryan Post that was taking place during an Online Training Summit put on by Full Potential Parenting, there are speakers all week so if you haven't yet go register!  It really hit home when Bryan was talking about letting out children feel what they feel, that when we suppress their feelings and suppress their attitudes what we get is the behaviors.  When Matthew got home from school he almost immediately through a tantrum about not being able to get on the Ipad.  He is not allowed to play electronics during the week, so this isn't anything new.  After being refreshed by the interview this morning I was able to stay calm, validate what Matthew was feeling and redirect him to getting something to eat so his brain could think.  We sat at the table together and really connected once he calmed down.  Win-Win, thank you Bryan Post!  I would love to get his DVD/Audio series for Parents but at almost $300 it seems a little out of my price range right now.

Matthew and I just finished a great game of Battleship, playing games is something I don't usually enjoy doing with Matthew.  I'm hyper-vigilant waiting for him to have a meltdown anytime he thinks he is losing, stuck in my own PTSD from all of the major rages and violent meltdowns we have been through that have been triggered from playing games with him.  Today was our first time playing Battleship, he had never played before, meaning I had to teach him the game, another trigger. Mathew doesn't like to listen to people explain or teach him things, see....he already knows it ALL :)  Then when it turns out he doesn't know it all and he is not as good at things as people who have been doing them and practicing them another meltdown begins.  You know what he said when he lost the game as we were cleaning up, "Hey Mom, I didn't even get upset I lost!".  You are so right my boy, you are awesome, I know how hard that is for you and you totally rocked it!!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Schedule for Saturdays



 
With all these snowdays lately I've been feeling a little disorganized as far as keeping to a schedule and routine!  Having an extra here for respite this past weekend (and coming again this weekend) didn't help our routine any either.  This in turn leads to more time on electronics which reeks havoc on attitudes around these parts, not to mention the nonstop arguments over whose turn it is now.  I've decided I need to get our routine back in place and the easiest way for me to do that is to set our schedule in stone (or at least on paper).  Once I have the schedule set and visible in the house it is easier for me to follow.  Here is our new plan for Saturdays:

7:00         Wake Up
7:15         Breakfast
7:30         Get Dressed
7:45         Free time
8:45         Leave for Library
9:00         Library
10:00       Snack
10:15       Outdoor Play Weather permitting OR Free time on I-pad/Computer, Mom clean kitchen
10:45       Legos/Blocks/Potato Heads, Mom load laundry/dishes
11:15       Clean Up/Chores while Mom makes Lunch
11:30       LUNCH
12:00       Nap- Silent Reading or Quiet Play in Room
2:00         Snack
2:15         Outdoor Play Weather Permitting OR Coloring/Craft
3:00         Read Story
3:15         Free Time
4:00         Matthew walks dog
4:15         Family Devotional
4:45         Clean Up/Chores while Mom makes Dinner
5:00         Dinner
5:30         Baths/Get ready for Bed
6:00         Bed for Joel, Read in Room for James
7:00         Bed for James, Mommy and Matthew time
7:30         Read in Room for Matthew
8:00         Bed for Matthew

 
I printed our schedule on a piece of paper and hung it in the living room. We gathered around first thing in the morning and ran through what the days schedule would be for the day.  I also printed 4 small copies on a piece of paper and cut them up so each kiddo could have their own schedule to cross things off on as we went through the day.

What does your schedule look like?

Single Mom Tips: Handles for Traveling with Kids

When you are out and about with multiple kids, things can get a bit tricky!  Especially when you may have kids with special needs or kids from foster care who don't understand the need to stay close and stay safe.  Having a child run out into the street on your watch can be a terrifying experience. When you have more kids than you do hands, holding hands no longer becomes a valid option, so what can you do:


We have these handles they come in multiple designs and you can add many handles to accommodate more kids.

 

Amazingly my kids hold on to these handles, apparently they don't realize they could just let go and run off, LOL!  Must be something psychological, but I wont complain :).  You can either hold your end of the handle or they easily clip onto a shopping cart or stroller.  At the beach I clip it on to my beach bag so they can hold on as we walk down to the ocean.

I also prefer these to the "leashes" many people use.  There are a lot of people who are very against them, I admit I used to not understand it, now I TOTALLY get it and if that works for your kid by all means use it!  These handles just feel better to me and I think help teach the kids some responsibility to stay safe.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Respite Drama



So 5 hours after I dropped R1 off back with his foster family, the foster mother is calling me to come back and pick him up.  She "made a mistake taking him back" and wants me to keep him for a few weeks.  At the beginning of the respite I gave her the benefit of the doubt due to the family circumstances that were bringing him into respite in the first place. However, as the week went on things just seemed more and more off with our conversations.  On Saturday she asked if I would be able to keep him the following weekend as well if his therapist didn't want him attending the family function that was being scheduled.  I said I would.  They were supposed to pick him up Sunday evening, she told me "He wants to stay till Monday so Ill just pick him up then".....um asking ME if that was okay might be nice.  When Monday comes she tells me she is going to need me to transport him to her since her husband doesn't drive...although she was there when we dropped him off and she drives, so.....?  When I drop him off she tells him he is coming with me next weekend, which means she didn't really check with his counselor on how to handle this situation, in fact no one had explained to him what the situation even was.  So she goes on to ask me when I can pick him up on Friday.  I ask about his school dismissal time and tell her I can pick him up around 5 after my son gets home on the bus.  She tells me she doesn't need to send him to school and I can come pick him up around 12 from her house.  No, not going to work lady!  Anyway I say I can pick him up directly from school on Friday and bring him home Sunday evening.  I left already feeling like she was taking advantage of me and the situation.  Less than 5 hours later she was calling for me to come get him.  I told her no, there is no way I can get him to and from his school everyday, or the 45 minutes each way to visit and counseling.  On top of that he has a safety plan that I wasn't informed about originally that is really hard for me to follow as a single parent.  I mean line of sight supervision is kinda hard when the only adult in the house would like to take a shower or pee!  I'm really frustrated and feel bad for R1, cant wait to see what happens tomorrow....wonder how long it will take the agency to call me and try and convince me to take him all week?  I don't want to sound cold or heartless to this foster families situation but I went into this round of fostering telling myself I was going to stand up for myself and what I want this time around, not get walked over, and here I am first situation in and already feeling taken advantage of, ugh.

When a Foster Child Gets Injured



Recently we had a respite placement at our house.  He ran through the living room and slipped on the wood floors bumping his head.  We went to have lunch and he complained that his head hurt and he wanted to lie down.  Heart palpitation began for me.  What you wouldn't think twice about with your birth or adopted children, a scrape on the knee or bruised elbow, quickly becomes a game of "What If?" in the foster parents mind.

What if their is some major hidden injury behind this minor one and I don't take him to the ER?  A bump on the head leads to a concussion or a bruised elbow becomes a fractured one in your mind.
What if the child makes a false allegation or doesn't answer questions in just the right way to explain the injury to others?
What if the birth parent sees the injury and makes a false allegation?
What if the school, doctor, case worker, sees the injury and hot lines it in?

These are not paranoid thoughts, many foster parents have been in these exact situations.  Its amazing how quickly something can spin out of control in "the system".  Its not even just your foster license or foster placement on the line, many situations trickle down and risk removal of your birth/adopted children as well during an investigation.  So what should you do in the event of an injury?

First, follow any guidelines set out by your county or foster agency!  If you have a manual be sure to check what it says as well as any verbal instructions you have received from your agency.  Obviously, it is better to be safe than sorry, so if in doubt call the pediatrician or 911 and have the child seen immediately. 

If it is a minor injury (bump, scrape, bruise, etc.) and you do not feel it needs any professional attention you will still want to document the injury to protect yourself.  I use this form to document any injuries.  (Edited to add:  This form includes a spot for pictures, if you don't use this form I highly recommend you take a photo of any injury or even a photo showing there were no visible marks from the injury to have for your records or to send to caseworker).  If there are any witnesses to the incident you may want to ask them to write an account of what happened as well, especially if the child is prone to false allegations, or at least include their contact information if a question arises.

I will place a copy in their foster care binder and then usually email a copy of it to the caseworker, especially if there will be a visit soon.

Depending on your relationship with the birth family you may want to communicate it directly with them as well.  In some situations I have kept a Communication Log with the birth family in a journal that travels with the child for visits.  I will often jot down in there if there as an injury, especially if it will be evident at a visit.

Any tips or thoughts on foster care injuries from your neck of the woods?

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Respite #1




Wednesday:
Our respite placement arrived around 1:30 when his social worker dropped him off.  He had a visit at 4, so we picked up Matthew from school and drove the 45 minutes downtown.  His siblings were there with their foster parent, but the birth parent no showed.  We waited an hour but no one could get a hold of her.  It was my first time in the waiting room, so I got to kind of take in the environment, staff, foster parents, birth parents, etc.  I talked briefly with another foster parent and got a good vibe overall.  R1 (Respite #1) was upset at first but by the time we left the building he had bounced back and wanted to be engrossed in the boys electronics. I don't know how parents made it before these devices, it was a lifesaver sitting in the waiting room for an hour, LOL!  We got home and had some dinner, the boys introduced R1 to Bey Blades.  They have played them nonstop!  The first night R1 took awhile to fall asleep, but laid nicely in his bed otherwise.   Matthew got up around 3am to go to the bathroom and within 2 minutes he had woken everyone up, or he woke James up and told him to go into R1's room and wake him up.  Ugh!  So sent Matthew up to the 3rd floor bedroom and tried to get everyone back to bed.

Thursday:
Snow day today!  I'm stuck in the house with four boys, fun times :) So far R1 has been polite and fitting in with the boys fairly well. Matthew on the other hand is being his usual controlling bossy self, frequently mean and hostile to play mates without realizing his tone and demeaner come across that way.  I continue to call him over and try and point it out, address it, and help him find better ways to talk/play with friends but he just does not seem to be making the connection.  Its even more apparent right now because R1 calls him right out on it and certainly as he gets more comfortable is not letting Matthew control the situation, whereas his younger brothers are usually pretty passive in this regard.  I'm glad to have this experience so I can pinpoint where and how to work on this with Matthew better.  He had a decent melt down in the afternoon.  After Matthew took a little alone time in his room and we discussed again how his behavior, tone of voice and demeanor were causing people to distance themselves from him, he apologized to everyone and seems to get back on track for the rest of the evening.

Friday:
Its Valentines Day here so we had pancakes and heart shaped bacon for breakfast and everyone played hide and seek for a good hour!  Everyone was getting a little snippy today, respite is hard on everyone.  I'm planning on writing about that another day.  We went to the Lego movie tonight, stopped at the dollar store first and let everyone pick out one toy for Valentines and a candy to bring to the movie.  Apparently buying Icee's at the movie makes me the "best foster mom" ever, Ill take it (just don't tell him the Icee was free with purchase of popcorn).  They had a good time and by the time we got home it was bedtime.

Saturday:
Matthew had a melt down today, I could feel it brewing and he finally exploded.  Combination of a change in routine with R1, not enough sleep, hadn't eaten breakfast cause he didn't want to stop playing, and R1 continually calling him out on everything even things he didn't do.  Its become apparent that R1 is pretty similar to Matthew in that he seeks out ways to upset others.  I think this will lead to some good talks next week with Matthew, but for now I got him calmed down and in his room for a little rest time.  It doesn't help that we are all cooped up in the house because of snow.  I think if the boys were able to run off their energy things might be going a little smoother. I talked to R1's foster mom today and the plan is to return him on Monday at lunchtime.  She has asked if he can come back next weekend if they need respite again due to their family situation.  I said we could do it if needed.

Sunday:
Went to church and then Chuck E Cheese today.  R1 is definitely getting more comfortable.  He has been "butting" into my conversations/reprimands with the other kids  and repeating directions in a bossy way.  Hmmmm...sounds like Matthew huh?  LOL, he's definitely very similar.  We went to dinner at Grandma's house.  I found out after the fact that Matthew had thrown all his lasagna under the table on the white rug.  The problem was R1 had eaten everything on his plate and the grandparents were making SUCH a big deal about how he was a great eater.  In fact at one point R1 even looked right at Matthew and taunted, "haha Im getting all the attention".  Of course I just get the phone call about the stain and how "I cant let him get away with these things".  None of which is helpful, Im not sure how he is getting away with anything??  I will address it.  There is just no understanding of the part they play in fueling the fire with Matthew. 

Monday:
We returned R1 on Monday around noon. Matthew had school today as a make up day for the snow despite it being a holiday, so I just had the littles to take along.  We dropped him off and I had a brief conversation with Foster Mom about him coming back this weekend Friday-Sunday.  I didn't get the best feeling from Foster Mom but I'm trying not to judge, they have been through a lot this week.



Thoughts:
I definitely think for long term placements I need a younger kid or girls, cause it was too much for my oldest to handle. Maybe if it was a boy who didn't have so many similar issues it wouldn't have been so triggering.  All in all I'm pretty proud of him and think that this really led to some great conversations.
I need to speak with my boys about giving their stuff away, I LOVE that they had such a giving spirit, but the respite kid continually asked for their stuff and they kept giving it away or asking me if they could give it away...it became exhausting...then if I said no or they said no he "wouldn't be their friend". I don't want to crush that generosity, but if we will be having kids in and out they will have no stuff left. My oldest just kept saying he wanted to give him things cause he remembers when he didn't have any toys before he came here, broke my heart and made me proud Just cant afford it!
Weekends and No school days need to have a better schedule in place, otherwise we have too much screen time which leads to everyone arguing and also seems to trigger Matthew's negative attitude and behavior.
I need to call the agency tomorrow and figure out if Im supposed to do anything paperwork wise with Respites....for that matter I really hope I get the stipend for the days he was here.  I never even asked.  In my last agency respite was just worked out between foster parents, no pay was given by the agency.  If that's the case here I don't think I will be getting a stipend from his foster mom, lol!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Freeze Ahead Creamed Spinach

 
 
I found this giant bag of spinach for about 4 bucks at our local produce place.  When I got home I was trying to figure out what to do with all of it and Creamed Spinach was the first thing that came to mind.  I always try and convince my kids to be like Popeye and eat their spinach, they don't usually go for it!  BUT this creamed spinach was right up there alley.  The best thing about it is you can freeze it for up to a year!
 
 
 
Ingredients: 6 Packages Loose Leaf Spinach
2 Cups Milk
1 Stick Butter
1/2 C Flour
1/4 C Olive Oil
3 T Minced Garlic
1 t each Salt & Pepper

You will need to use 2 pots, one to make the cream and one to wilt the spinach.

 Get your smaller pot out and ready for making the cream.  First, melt the butter in your pot on med-high heat.  With a whisk, quickly add (and keep stirring) the flour - this is called making a roux and it will thicken any liquid added to it.  When the flour is well incorporated into the butter, add the milk.  Keep whisking and you will see the mixture thicken quickly.  Add salt & pepper.  When it's the consistency of gravy, take it off the heat and set aside.
 
 
 


For the Spinach.  In a large pot, add the Olive Oil and Garlic. Over medium heat, add a handful of spinach at a time.  As the spinach begins to wilt, add more until all of the spinach has wilted.
 
 
 
Finally, stir the "Cream" into the spinach and allow to cool.

Next fill freezer bags with the Creamed Spinach.
 
Separate the mixture into six freezer bags, label and freeze for up to 1 year.  When you're ready to use it, microwave for about 3 minutes in a microwave safe dish.
 
 






This Week's Menu and Next: Feb 16-22 and Feb 23-March 1

Ill be going on my annual Trauma Momma's retreat in Orlando from March 6-10, so I'm trying to clean out my refrigerator/freezer and cabinets in the next two weeks, hopefully I wont have to make any trips to the grocery store!
 
February 16-22
Breakfasts:
Cold Cereal, Banana Muffins, Cinnamon Sugar Toast, English Muffins
Weekend:  Oven Pancake, Eggs and Sausage

Lunches:
Packed Lunches-  Ham and Cheese or PBJ, Carrots/Celery, Apples, Chips/Pretzels, Tasty Cakes

Home Lunches-  Taco Salad, Pre-frozen Mini English Muffin Pizzas, Carrots/Celery, Apples/Oranges

Snacks:
Carrots, Celery and PB, Raisins, Pickles, Apples, Clear out Pantry

Dinners:

Sunday-              Grandmas for Dinner
Monday-             Grilled Cheese Hamburgers, Macaroni Salad
Tuesday-             Hot Dogs, Corn, Mashed Potatoes, Apples
Wednesday-       Nachos, Salad
Thursday-           Chicken Parmesan Subs, Roasted Potatoes
Friday-                Pizza/Chinese Take Out Night
Saturday-            Leftovers


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
February 23- March1
 

Breakfasts:
Cold Cereal, Cinnamon Sugar Toast, English Muffins (Cin. Raisin and Plain)
Weekend:  Oven Pancake, Eggs and Sausage

Lunches:
Packed Lunches-  Ham and Cheese or PBJ, Carrots/Celery, Apples, Chips/Pretzels, Tasty Cakes

Home Lunches-  Grilled Cheese, Soup, Carrots/Celery, Apples

Snacks: Clear out Pantry

Dinners:

Sunday-              Taco Salad
Monday-             Spaghettio's, Carrots
Tuesday-             Hot Dogs, Creamed Spinach
Wednesday-        Mashed Potatoes, Grilled Chese
Thursday-           Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Sandwiches, Roasted Potatoes
Friday-                Pizza/Chinese Take Out Night
Saturday-            Leftovers



Saturday, February 15, 2014

Respite Binder for Foster Care


One of the most popular posts on this blog is the Foster Care Binder to keep track of all the documentation that goes along with fostering. I have adapted it to a Documentation Binder for those children who have been adopted or birth children with special needs.  But what about those respite situations where you only have a placement for a short time but still want to keep track of things?  I made a Respite Binder this weekend with our first Respite Placement, this includes only the forms that would be needed or useful for a short placement.

I arranged my respite binder in a 1 inch binder with 3 sections Current Placement, Past Placements, Blank Forms.


The "Respite Packet" includes a basic information sheet, notes sheet, medication/mileage log, Incident Report, and Clothing Inventory.

Basic Information Sheet:  Includes Child, Caseworker, and Foster Parent's contact information as well as the reason for and dates of respite.  It also has space for any notes you may have.

Medication/Mileage Log:  This is a shortened version of the full forms available in the Foster Care Binder.  You can keep track of any medication administered as well as mileage for any travel that is reimbursed by your agency.

Incident Report:  I have included an Incident Report if needed for any minor (or major) injuries that may happen while the child is in your care for respite. (Edited to add:  This form includes a spot for pictures, if you don't use this form I highly recommend you take a photo of any injury or even a photo showing there were no visible marks from the injury to have for your records or to send to caseworker).

Clothing Inventory: With multiple kids in the house and short respite visits, Id hate to forget to send something back that came with the child.  I print this Clothing inventory by changing the print settings on my computer to two pages per sheet.  I then print two copies, one for clothing in and one for clothing out.

Here is a link to the forms I've included in my Binder:
Respite Forms

In addition to these forms I keep a copy of any information provided to me.  Once respite has been completed I staple all the documents together in the corner and move them to the Past Placements section.

What else do you think is important to keep track of for Respite Placements?

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

CHICKEN PARMESAN MEATBALLS

3 pounds ground chicken or turkey
1 cup breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons chopped onion
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
salt to taste
pepper to taste
2 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 egg, whisked
zest of half a lemon
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 14-ounce can pizza sauce
4 ounces mozzarella or 1 bag shredded

 
Preheat oven to 400°F, setting rack to upper third part of oven. In a large bowl, using your hands, gently mix together first 11 ingredients.


Shape into golf sized balls  and place a few inches from each other on a foil-lined baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix one spoonful of your pizza sauce with olive oil. Brush this mixture on top of each meatball. Bake for 15 minutes.



 
Remove meatballs from oven, at this point if you want to freeze the meatballs this is where you would do so.  I took out the amount we wanted to freeze and placed them in a freezer container to use later in the week. 


When ready to use, remove from freezer and defrost (or put directly in oven but you may need to cook longer) follow remaining directions.


Spoon some more sauce on top of each meatball, and cover each with mozzarella cheese, you can use sliced or shredded cheese. Bake another 15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden.  Heat remaining sauce in a small saucepan. Serve meatballs by themselves, with spaghetti or on a meatball sub...yummy!

 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentines Day Oven Pancake and Heart Shaped Bacon

 It's Valentines day here and I have four hungry boys waiting for pancakes!  What a perfect day to make Oven Pancakes.....that's right one giant pancake, no slaving over the stove making dozens of individual pancakes for the hungry little or big people in your life!  This is super easy and I haven't made regular pancakes since I learned this recipe :)  Of course since its V-day I made heart shaped bacon to go along with it.  My boys would probably tell you the best part of this whole Valentines Day Breakfast was that I let them put their own syrup, butter, whipped cream, and fruit on the pancakes.....no pesky mom telling them that was enough sugar today!
 

 
OVEN PANCAKES


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a 9x13 pan, place a 1/2 to 1 stick of butter (1/4 – 1/2 cup).   Place the pan in the oven to melt the butter (don’t burn it!).  If the butter melts before you are done with the batter, you can take the pan out of the oven while you finish.

While the butter is melting whisk together:

  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla (optional)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, blueberries or other favorite flavor (optional)

You can use a regular blender or a stick blender to mix this thoroughly, in a pinch I've just mixed by hand with a whisk and it was fine.  By now the butter should be melted in the pan. Carefully tilt the pan to coat it with the butter. Pour the batter in, and bake uncovered for about 17 minutes. It will puff up and is fun for children to watch as it grows. The pancake is done when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. After the pancake comes out of the oven it loses some of its puffiness. You can cut it while puffed or un-puffed.

 
 
You can also try sprinkle brown sugar in the melted butter before adding the batter. When it is done you cut it and flip it over and the butter and brown sugar have made a syrup already

Tip:  You can cut the whole thing with a pizza cutter into bite sized pieces to save time cutting each child's individually.


HEART SHAPED BACON
 
 
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
 
Line a baking pan with tinfoil.  Using two pieces of bacon form a heart shape, using one piece for each side of the heart being sure to overlap them.  Cook for 15-20 minutes or until bacon is done to your liking.  Remove pan from oven and let cool a few minutes before moving heart bacon to plates.
 
 


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Teaching Kids to Play: Solitary Play


 
Solitary play is when a child is engaged in an independent activity, showing no interest in joining or interacting with other children. For example, a child is in a room of children, sitting alone and stacking blocks.




"Babies usually like to spend much of their time playing on their own. They are exploring all aspects of their environment from the sound of their own voice and the feel of their own body parts to those of others. They want to gaze upon, grab, suck and rattle any object that comes their way.
Older children at times will also prefer to play on their own. They may spend hours making up stories with their GI Joes or Barbie Dolls. They like to build, draw, paint, invent and explore by themselves. They hopefully will also like to read and even write on their own."

We generally think of the solitary play stage as something infants/young children engage in, but there are important skills learned in this stage that older children and even adults need in order to function in a school, work, and social environment. As children get older they are expected to complete more activities independently or to play quietly by themselves while an adult is working on something or while waiting for an appointment. The older a child gets the longer the period of time they are expected to focus and work independently.  If your child missed this important stage of play or is struggling with some of the skills learned in this area, it will be extremely important to go back and teach them how to do solitary play.

Benefits of Solitary Play:
One of the benefits of solitary play is that it leads to more self-confidence for your child. The child is able to have control over something and be successful. Children will also learn to focus on an activity, occupy themselves and use their imagination to keep themselves interested.  Their ability to work independently will be increased as well as their skills in the area of thought process.

Evaluating Solitary Play Skills:
When evaluating whether your child has mastered solitary play you will want to look at how long will child play with a given toy independently before reverting to Unoccupied play or getting bored and moving on.  Does your child get easily frustrated wit cause and effect, problem solving, or decision making tasks/activities/toys and what is there response to frustration?  Do they move on, have increased anxiety, become aggressive, immediately request assistance or persevere till they are able to accomplish the goal?

Goals for Solitary Play:
Once you know where your child is at with Solitary Play you can determine appropriate goals for your child, such as:
Increase focus and attention to one toy/task
Increase Independence at play
Increase Exploration of environment
Increased skills in the thought process – problem-solving, remembering, focus, and decision-making.
Increased Imagination Skills-  if this is an area your child struggles with they will need direct instruction with an adult before able to successfully master this during Solitary Play (This will be addressed in Teaching Kids To Play: Pretend/Imaginative Play)

Toy Ideas:
Cause and Effect Toys
Montessori Toys
Stacking Toys
High Interest Toys for your child


TEACHING/PRACTICING SOLITARY PLAY:

In order to teach solitary play you will want to set up an area that your child is to stay in, pick a toy they may be interested in (Cause and Effect Toys, Montessori Toys work well).  I try and pick an area that is relatively free from other distractions.

To increase ability to focus on toy or independence while playing:  Once you have a baseline (average length of time child can concentrate on toy) you will want to try and increase it by increments that your child will be successful at, this could mean 10 seconds longer, it could mean 2 minutes longer.  You want your child to be successful at the increase a few times before pushing them to go longer.  For us, our goal is to engage in solitary play for 15 minutes, we currently are at about 10 minutes.  I set a timer for 12 minutes and explain that child can have a treat if they can play with this toy in this spot for 12 minutes alone.  We set some rules:  You have to stay on carpet, you can only play with this toy, you can talk to yourself or imaginary friends but no one else unless you have an emergency (review situations that constitute an emergency).  For some children you may need to provide a reinforcer (treat, song, etc.) every time they look at the toy and increase from there.  Wherever your child is at is fine, start there. 

To increase exploration of environment:  If your goal is to get your child to explore the environment around them, setting up an I Spy type game is a great way to do this.  Books such as Where's Waldo and I Spy encourage this during solitary play.  Another idea is to give your child a list of things to find on his own in the house, a scavenger hunt.  If they have trouble with this start small and help them at first trying to fade out for longer and longer periods till they are able to do it on their own.

To increase skills in thought-process, problem solving skills:  This is an area where some of the Montessori toys are really great for working with during solitary play.  Don't be afraid to start out with some basic toys designed for younger kids; things like stacking toys.  We have this Snowman Stacking Toy from Melissa and Doug, its great because it doesn't seem like a "baby" toy!  They have lots of other similar toys and puzzles that would be great.  Anything that will require your child to use some thinking to do can work in this area!





Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Respite Placement:

SO in my 2 year hiatus from taking foster placements I almost forgot what the system was like...till today when I accepted a respite placement:

 Placement Worker- I have the sweetest boy, he is so polite, I really have nothing bad to say about him.
Me- That should work out fine, sounds good.
Worker dropping him off- I need you to sign his safety plan, he needs to be with you at all times especially around little kids due to some "issues". Oh and he needs transport to a visit tonight, school the next two days and a therapy appointment on Friday.....

Really??!! Right now I find the whole thing absolutely amusing, but I'm sure after a few more weeks of this I will be back to my pissed off at the system self!

Oh well, so far he is definitely polite and kind, we drove 45 minutes each way to a visit where no one showed up.  Considering we may be snowed in the rest of the week I probably wont have to do the school or therapy transport and it will be fun for the boys to have a new friend to play with for awhile.

How to Help: Luggage

 
HOW TO HELP KIDS IN FOSTER CARE WITHOUT BECOMING A FOSTER PARENT
LUGGAGE
 
 
In the world of foster care moves can happen quick. Children are often removed from their birth homes with little notice, a social worker throwing a couple outfits and a favorite stuffed animal (if they're lucky) in whatever bag they have available.  Further moves may happen between foster placements, to a relative placement, or back to the birth family with little notice.  Often a trash bag ends up being the easiest way to pack and move in a hurry.  What does that say to a child?  That they and their personal belongings aren't worth much.  This sentiment is heard often from adults who grew up in the foster system and something that can be addressed easily.
 
Having proper luggage to move children is an easy way to show children in foster care that they are precious and loved.  If you have old luggage stored away in your attic or find a decent luggage bag at Goodwill, pick it up and donate it to a foster parent, case worker or agency.
 
It really could make a world of difference for a child in care!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Baked Oatmeal


Baked Oatmeal is one of our favorite breakfast dishes.  It is super easy to make and inexpensive!  You can make it up the night before and bake it in the morning.  I have even made a double batch and frozen it in dollar store tin pans to bake later in the month.


Ingredients:
3 cups rolled oats
1/4-1 cup sugar (any kind or combination will work)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter (or applesauce)
2 eggs

Directions:
Mix together all ingredients. Pour into a 8 x 8 baking dish that has been greased with butter or sprayed with PAM. You can mix this up and put it in the fridge overnight if you want to save time in the morning.  Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.  Serve warm with milk.
 
***You can also add a variety of items to the oatmeal like fruit, raisins, nuts, peanut butter, chocolate chips, coconut, jelly/jams, etc.***
 
Leftovers can be reheated later or cut into squares and used for snacks.
 
 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

SINGLE MOM TIPS: Breakfast Organization



In our house breakfast is done individually depending on when the kids get up.  The key to breakfast is easy, easy, easy.  We just do not have the time and I don't have the energy to do a big breakfast on weekdays.  On the weekend we do the whole shebang, but M-F is simple meals.  Generally my youngest two are up first so I help them get their breakfast.  My oldest is nine and able to prepare most of the breakfast choices himself, but depending on what is for breakfast I will prepare it and have it set out for him when I am getting the littles.

Each week I offer certain choices for breakfast and place them on the menu.  In the evening I will ask what the consensus is for breakfast, generally I try and get them to all agree on one thing.  However, since most of the breakfast items are quick and easy it is not a big deal to prepare more than one of the choices.  I try and lay out any of the items we will need on the counter for the next day (unless they need to be in refrigerator/freezer).

I have one shelf dedicated to breakfast items in my kitchen, this includes cold cereals, oatmeal, cream of wheat, pop tarts and any other shelf stable breakfast item.  My oldest is nine and able to prepare any of these items himself (and will prepare for siblings, if asked).  I try and limit the cereal choices to 2-3 at a time on this shelf (extras are stored in the pantry) and only keep what is being offered for a choice that week on the shelf.

Bread items are stored in a drawer in the kitchen:  English Muffins, Bagels, Bread.

I use the weekends to make up extra servings of breakfast items that can be frozen and reheated: pancakes/waffles, muffins, breakfast sandwiches, burritos. These are really easy to take out of the freezer and heat in toaster or microwave in the morning.  Some of our favorite recipes are listed below.

I have a plastic cup with lid and straw for each kid.  I pour them a cup of juice the night before and place in the refrigerator.  Once the juice is gone they can refill with water on their own for the rest of the day until dinner.  Having the drinks prepared in the refrigerator is nice. Since I have two little ones who sometimes want to get up SUPER early, I can send them down to get a drink and put on a TV show while my slow achy body gets awake and ready for the day.  Using the cups with lids and straws in the morning came about after one too many spills happening in the morning when we really don't have the time to mop!  I try and use regular cups at dinner.

More Tips/Tricks to make the morning easier:

  1. Fill a large shaker with a cinnamon/sugar mix that can be put on buttered toast/bagels/Eng. Muffins and kept on the breakfast shelf for easy access.  They also sell a premixed cinnamon/sugar spice shaker at the dollar store that is handy and can be refilled with it runs out.
  2. If your kids like butter on their pancakes/waffles try melting butter in the syrup over the stove before putting it on your food.  This way there is no need to try and cut and spread the butter on everyone's plates but they still get the butter taste.
  3. Use a pizza cutter to cut waffles and pancakes to save time.
  4. Make a kid level drawer with plastic bowls, plates, silverware, cups so kids can help set the table or get their dishes out in the morning.



FAVORITE RECIPES:
 
Pancakes/Waffles
Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins:  My kids LOVE these and have no clue its filled with Veggies :)
Breakfast Burritos


Oh and I don't think I've ever showed you MY favorite area of the kitchen.....a Coffee Bar, just for mom!  Cause lets be honest, nothing is happening till I've had my coffee :)

Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins....that your kids will LOVE!

I was looking for ways to use of the shredded zucchini I have in my freezer from this past summer.  We were inundated with zucchini faster than I could  make it, so I shredded up a bunch of it and portioned it out in about 2 cup sizes in Ziploc bags.  These muffins were the perfect way to use it up!  My kids ate 2 dozen of these muffins in one weekend.  They LOVED them!  Of course I failed to mention that there were vegetables in them, lets keep that little secret to ourselves shall we??  To them they were just Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins :)

Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp sugar (The original recipe did not have sugar, but I felt it needed a bit more than just the honey for my kids, feel free to leave it out or add a bit more honey instead)
  • 1.5 cups grated zucchini (squeeze the extra water out of it)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1.5 cups flour (I used all purpose but you could use whole wheat)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350F. 
Grate zucchini (either by hand or using a food processor), then squeeze grated zucchini to remove some of the water.  I used pre-frozen shredded zucchini, left it to thaw and then squeezed it out. Measure 1 1/2 cups zucchini and mix with the mashed bananas.
Add egg, honey, sugar, and oil. Sprinkle baking soda, baking powder, and salt over the top of this and mix all ingredients together.
Add the flour and cinnamon to the bowl and mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Spray muffin pan or individual muffin cups with non-stick spray, then divide batter evenly among cups to make 12 muffins. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

This Weeks Menu: Feb 9-15

Menu for February 9-15, 2014

Breakfast Choices:  Cold Cereal, Oatmeal, Cinnamon Bread, English Muffins, English Muffin Sandwich with Sausage.  Ill be posting tomorrow about how we do Breakfasts.


Lunches:  Ham and Cheese or PBJ (Pre-Made and Frozen), Pretzels, Apple/Orange, Carrots/Peppers, Fruit Snacks.  See how we do Lunches HERE.

Snack Choices:  Apples, Oranges, Carrots, Peppers, Pretzels, Raisins, Crackers



DINNERS-

Sunday: Grandma's for Party

Monday: Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce, Salad, Bread

Tuesday: Mac and Cheese

Wednesday: Corn Chowder, Bread

Thursday: Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

Friday: Pizza Night- English Muffin Pizzas

Saturday: Free for All Day, Leftovers

 
Our menu is posted each day using these visuals next to the meal and time. Ill get a post up about how we use this to reduce food issues.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

English Muffin Pizzas with Pizza Butter

 

 
 
 
 
 
Pizza Butter-
  • 1 cup mozzarella or Italian shredded cheese
  • 1can tomato paste
  • 1 stick butter
  • Oregano to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend away! 
This butter can be stored in the fridge for about a week.
Spread on English muffins, bagels, toast and topped with cheese, pepperoni or any of your favorite toppings.
We put the butter on English muffins and topped with a little extra cheese and pepperoni, baked in the oven at 350 for about 5-7 minutes or until cheese is melted.
 
This is a GREAT activity for you and the kids to do together.  The butter is a lot easier for kids to spoon out and spread around (and less messy) than regular pizza sauce and everyone can choose their own toppings.

Teaching Kids to Play: Unoccupied Play



Unoccupied Play is not seen much past the infancy stage in typical developing children.  The child is uninterested in toys or exploring their surrounding.  They tend to stay in one place and make seemingly random gestures or movements. For an infant or young child these gestures and movements are an attempt to interact with and learn about the environment.  Older children who may be stuck in the Unoccupied Play stage are sometimes referred to as "stimming", relatively common for kids with autism, neurological or developmental disabilities.  Children who have suffered trauma and as a result have PTSD or have other mental health issues may appear to be in Unoccupied Play when they dissociate from reality.

It can be difficult to interact with children who are engaging in unoccupied play or stimming/dissociative behaviors.  If your child is engaging in unoccupied play behaviors after the infancy stage you will first want to figure out the underlying reason.  Many children use these behaviors to manage anxiety, fear, anger, and other negative emotions or help themselves handle overwhelming sensory input (too much noise, light, heat, etc).   If you can identify the cause of the unoccupied play behavior it will be easier to choose what strategies to try and keep them actively engaged in play.

Here are some things you can try to move past unoccupied play behaviors:

Play music in background
Provide environment with different colors and patterns
Provide toys with different textures
Singing Songs
Use sing-song voice when talking to child
Use expressive and excited voice tones
Provide positive reinforcement for interacting with toys/others
Provide positive reinforcement for making eye contact
Begin teaching the specific skills needed for Solitary Play
Re-direct child to toy

If you have difficulty getting your child out of the Unoccupied Play stage you may need additional assistance from OT (Occupational Therapist) or ABA (Applied Behavior Analyst).

Friday, February 7, 2014

FInally had school today!

After snow days for one or the others, today was the first day all week that everyone went back to school!  WOOHOO, ok the littles only have 2 hours at preschool, but its still 2 hours :)  Things were getting bad around here fast, everyone on edge, attitudes flailing! I was glad for the break.  Although they are now saying snow on Sunday so we may have even more snow days in our future.  I wasn't on it this week, my back has been killing me, making me want to just sit on the couch all day.  Which is what I did?  Yay, self care for me!  Boo, lack of structure, boundaries, and routine for the boys.  The free for all always begins smoothly at my house luring me into a false sense of security that I will be able to relax for a day, put down my hyper-vigilant spidey sense and rest.  This usually lasts half an hour before it all back fires and somebody ends up on line of sight restriction because they cant "play nice" with the others.  Its days like these I feel guilty for not being supermom.  If I was supermom, instead of sitting on the couch barking out orders this is how the snowday would have gone:

I would have had a series of activities planned and ready to go; preferably educational, therapeutic, and fun.
We would have had a family meeting right when they woke up outlining the days schedule down to the minute, including what we would be eating and when snacks would be allowed.
I would have set them up with the activities, supervised, guided, redirected, and cleaned the house at the same time.
I would have had a variety of rewards to give out and encourage the boys.
I would have scheduled individual one on one time throughout the day.
Meals would have been fun and nutritional.

But today.....I sat on the couch :(  Oh well, theres always tomorrow!

Teaching Kids to Play: Stages of Play Overview


One of the first things I noticed when my boys first came to me was the lack of ability to "play".  They didn't know what to do with toys other than crash them into each other or bang and throw them. They obsessed with bad guys and beating bad guys, but not in an imaginative cops and robbers way, just a focus on hitting toys against each other. They were not able to follow rules, share or wait their turn.   There was no imagination, making up scenarios and stories and cooperatively playing with other peers did not come naturally.  If I had a chance to do that first year over again I would have focused on direct instruction of play.   They didn't pick up on these play skills naturally and never caught up, as I thought they would, by watching and imitating peers play.  We had bigger fish to fry at the time, or so I thought, and it wasn't something I thought I could really deal with then on top of everything else, nor did I realize the importance of play skills in other development areas.  The thing is,  now that I've spent a lot of time looking into teaching kids to play, it is not something that would be difficult to incorporate into your daily routine!  Hopefully this series will help you identify the play skills your child may have missed or be having difficulty with and give you some great ideas to help them succeed in play!



 
STAGES OF PLAY


 
In 1932, Mildred Parten categorized the stages of play for children that we still use today. Those stages are Onlooker, Solitary, Parallel, Associative, and Cooperative Play. We will be looking at each of these stages over the next few weeks in more detail, but read through the brief descriptions and began looking for where your child might fit in, what stage are they at?  You may find that your child completely skipped one of the stages in their development or never mastered a particular skill within an area of play.
 
Unoccupied: In this stage a child may observe others playing, but not join in. They may make seemingly random movements or gestures.  For example, an infant may look around a room and reach out their hand, but not engage in play.
 
Solitary:  Solitary play is when a child is engaged in an independent activity, showing no interest in joining or interacting with other children. For example, a child is in a room of children, sitting alone and stacking blocks.
 
Onlooker: During onlooker behavior a child may watch others play but not join in, differing from unoccupied play in that the children may engage in forms of social interaction like having a conversation with the children playing.  For example, a child walks up to a group playing with legos and talks with them about what they are building but does not join in and play with the legos.
 
Parallel: In parallel play, children may play next to each other, possibly even with similar toys.  They may interact but the focus is on their own individual play.  For example, two children may be sitting next to each other driving trucks.  They may even comment to the other child what they are doing, "My truck is digging a hole."
 
Associative: This stage involves children sharing and interacting with each other, but they utilize separate storylines and themes.  For example, children may be coloring next to each other and sharing crayons, but create individual artwork and tell different stories about their picture. The interactions are more reciprocal than in parallel play, with the conversation going back and forth and the child asking questions or commenting on the other child's play.
 
Cooperative:  This stage of play is highly complex, as it combines skills learned from previous stages in order for children to participate in organized, goal oriented play.  This stage involves children sharing materials, working together to develop and assign roles and storylines to coordinate and play together.  For example, children may gather together pretend food and carts, set up a grocery store and check out area, assign roles of shopper and cashier and carry out a storyline of purchasing food and checking out.
 
 
 
List of Topics in "Teach Kids to Play" Series:
(As each topic is covered I will link up to it here)
 
 
Onlooker Play
Parallel Play
Associative Play
Cooperative Play
How to set up a Direct Instruction Play Session
Joint Attention
Communication
Resources
What is "Play Therapy" and how is this different?
 
 
 


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