How to exercise while caring for young children

How to exercise while caring for young children
“I’m blocking off tomorrow morning for a dance class,” I informed my husband, leaving all kid duties to him while I work out a sweat. I had been slacking with exercise the last several months and needed something fun to kick me back into gear. With taking care of a toddler, working, and a slew of other lame excuses (“I’d rather watch How I Met Your Mother” and “I just ate dinner” among them), exercise wasn’t a priority.

Not that it was ever a huge priority to begin with. See, ask me to run around the block and I’ll be ready to pass out in five minutes tops. I was good during pregnancy though, when I scheduled appropriate workouts like walking, stationary-cycling and cardio workout videos at home. But now that I have a kid, I regret not taking advantage of working out when I had a zillion more hours to myself.

That’s why I’m excited to introduce Erika from You Just Did What?! whom I interviewed for this very topic. You might remember Erika from the guest post I wrote on her blog, and she’s now paying us a visit here at Sleeping Should Be Easy.

Erika explains the importance of finding activities you want to do (hence the dance class) instead of those you don’t. She’ll also describe how she went from barely running for two minutes to running several races—all while parenting a two-year-old. She’s an inspiration to any mother who has ever doubted her abilities and strengths, and I couldn’t wait to feature her story.

Who knows, maybe I’ll give running a second chance after this:

Sleeping Should Be Easy: How did you get into running? How would you compare yourself now to when you first started?
Erika: I ran off and on since college, running a couple of miles here and there. It wasn’t until after having my daughter that I began to take exercise seriously. Needing to shed the beloved “baby weight” I had gained during pregnancy, I joined Strollers Strides, a group fitness class designed for mamas. The group happened to have a couple of runners, and I decided that it would be a great idea to get back into running. On a whim, I signed up for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon at Disneyland. At this point I could barely run comfortably for 2 minutes, and the race was only seven months away.

During my training, I signed up for a shorter 10k and realized how much I enjoyed running, so I kept signing up for more races. It can definitely become an addiction.

I have changed a lot over the course of my running journey. I am stronger both physically and mentally. My endurance is greater, and running has provided me with an outlet to relieve tension and stress—perfect when raising a toddler!

SSBE: Speaking of toddlers, I can’t imagine exercising regularly while taking care of a young child. Clearly it’s possible since you’re a great example, so how do you make time to exercise with a toddler in tow?
Erika: I am asked this question all the time! Exercise makes me feel good, so I make it a priority. With that in mind, it’s easier for me to stick to my guns and make sure I squeeze in a workout. When I was training for my Half Marathon, I had a specific training plan in place—I followed the same routine every week and made sure I had babysitters lined up on those days.

I’m not training for anything at the moment, so when I do workout, my daughter comes along with me. She will ride in the Bob Stroller if I’m going for a walk or jog. Or I take her to the gym where she plays in the kids club. I also take her to Stroller Strides. And I often wake up at 5am to get my workout over with before anyone wakes up!

SSBE: What’s a typical day for you and your daughter?
Erika: We wake up around 6am and see my husband off to work. We lounge around until about 8am, eating breakfast and playing quietly. If I decide to work out to a video, I’ll do it then while my daughter plays quietly or joins me.

If I don’t work out then, we’ll hit the gym or go for a stroll. After that, she gets in her outdoor play time at the park or with friends. We head back home for lunch and nap time. When she wakes up, we usually play in the backyard (and now that it’s summer, we love to turn on the sprinklers!). I’ll also get chores done in the afternoon and head over to the store to run errands.

We eat dinner once my husband comes home. Then, we start the bedtime routine at 7:30pm. The next day, we get up and do it again!

SSBE: How do you stay motivated when you just want to quit?
Erika: Ha ha—good question and one I am still trying to figure out myself. Exercise makes me feel good so I try to keep that in mind. I’m most motivated when I’m working towards a goal (I usually have a training plan set out for me, so knowing what I need to do and having my workouts planned makes it easier).

I’ll also add that nothing has helped me more than the support of friends and family. I would much rather work out with someone than by myself. It’s so much easier (and way more fun) when you have accountability partners who are going through the same thing!

SSBE: What advice can you give moms who are just starting to run or exercise?

  • Find a community of other mothers who enjoy working out. There are tons of mother running clubs out there catering to moms getting together, becoming healthy and having fun. Plus, they are sure to have some Mom Night Outs, as well.
  • Set a goal for yourself and don’t be afraid to dream big (for instance, sign up for a half marathon when you know you can only run 2 minutes at a time).
  • Get a babysitter. Try to reserve some workout time for yourself.
  • If you work, try to get up early and do a short 30 minute workout (if only for a week). My favorite runs are in the morning, when the air is cool and crisp.
  • Find an activity you enjoy and mix it up. You don’t have to do the same thing over and over again! Don’t let yourself get bored. Exercise should make you feel better afterward. If it doesn’t, rethink your activity.

Thank you Erika, for sharing your story and hopefully offering other moms the inspiration they need to exercise and be healthy. I know I’ve since made working out more of a priority. Even if on most days my workouts consist of brisk walking or simple cardio videos, my heart is pumping, my muscles moving, and best of all, I feel so much better for it.

Do you exercise regularly, or whenever you can squeeze it in? What workout goals are you trying to reach? How can you involve your kids in your workouts?

p.s. Get email updates from Sleeping Should Be Easy because you won’t miss a single post.


Promote healthy eating habits in children

Promote healthy eating habits in toddlers
Today I’m excited to be with Tori at The sTORIbook discussing healthy eating habits in children. For those who don’t know Tori, a bit of an introduction: she’s a mom to one-year-old Luke, hails from San Antonio Texas, runs her own business from home in PR and marketing and is your go-to gal for fashion, decorating and anything vintage. Tori is also a regular SSBE reader and you’ll often find her in the comments section.

If you’re here from The sTORIbook, welcome! Read through some recent posts, including:

You can also take a look through the most viewed posts for popular topics and tips. And if you like what you read, subscribe and receive free full-text posts in your email inbox. Or, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Again, welcome to Sleeping Should Be Easy—so nice to have you here!

Without further ado, here are the first few lines of the post featured on The sTORIbook:

This past weekend, my two-year-old tasted chocolate for the first time. Sure, he had eaten pastries and baked goods before, but chocolate would be new. I was adamant about avoiding sweets and processed food for the longest time—anything from the obvious culprits like fast food and hard candy to the more innocuous ones like homemade treats that grandma made. A part of me was scared that he would morph into a sweets-only toddler boy that would shun all healthy food the minute his mouth bit into that chocolate chip cookie.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

Read the rest… and I’ll see you in the comments section at Tori’s blog!

What you should know about separation anxiety—an interview with Kim Peterson

What you should know about separation anxiety—an interview with Kim Peterson
I remember when my then 18-month-old son wanted to be with me… and only me. Little that his dad or regular caregiver did could pry him away from me without tears. “Where’s that kid who would ‘go to anyone’?” I glumly wondered. Separation anxiety proved difficult for everybody—for my toddler who was clearly unhappy being away from me, for others who felt shunned despite wanting to help, and for me, who felt no flattery and instead exhaustion and frustration at being the object of his attachment.

Thankfully we were able to move beyond the phase, and while the little guy can still be attached to me, he’s nowhere near the anxiety he felt in the past. Other parents, however, can be struggling with their kids and separation anxiety. That’s why I’m excited and honored to welcome Kim Peterson, MA, a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor and Registered Play Therapist, to Sleeping Should Be Easy. A regular SSBE reader and mom, Kim sat down with us for a Q&A to explain the ins and outs of separation anxiety:

Sleeping Should Be Easy: What exactly is separation anxiety?
Kim Peterson: Separation anxiety is when a child experiences anxiety when they are separated from a primary caregiver. They will become visibly upset when the parent begins to leave the room or hands them off to someone else. They may attempt to clamor back into your arms or cling tightly to your legs.

Separation anxiety is seen in most babies and children at some point and can be considered a normal part of development. Still, it can worry many parents because it happens so quickly. I remember when my son was 10 months old, he went to other people with no problem. Then, all of a sudden, he cried when I started to leave the room and looked at me with distressed eyes. I felt guilty and worried, although I really had no reason to worry.

SSBE: Is there a specific age where separation anxiety begins, peaks and ends?
KP: Every baby and child is different. Some experience separation anxiety around 8 months; for others it may be around 24 months, or anywhere in between. Your child may even experience separation anxiety at multiple stages of development, or they may never show anxiety about a parent leaving.

SSBE: Why does separation anxiety happen?
KP: There can be various reasons for separation anxiety, some which are centered around your child’s developmental stage. Babies develop a sense of object permanence around 5-7 months, which means they realize that objects (and people) exist even if they can’t see them anymore. So, when mom disappears into another room, the baby knows mom still exists, but they aren’t quite confident if or when she will return. It’s around this stage of development that we start to notice separation anxiety.

At the toddler stage, your little one has likely developed a sense of attachment to you. Even though she probably realizes you will return after leaving, being away from you is just upsetting and she is most comfortable and happy when you are around.

Separation anxiety can also be brought on by a transition or stressful event, such as beginning a childcare program, changing providers, a new sibling in the home, or moving or changing schools or day cares.

SSBE: How can parents help ease the child’s anxiety and help him or her feel comfortable without the parent?
KP: This question is probably best answered with a few simple tips:

  • Maintain as much normalcy and consistency to the child’s routine, providers, diet, and environment as possible. This is especially important if there has been a significant change in their life, such as a new sibling.
  • Try your best not to express your own worry or angst about leaving when it’s time to say good-bye. Show them there is nothing to fear.
  • You don’t want to prolong your departure, but be sure you tell them good-bye. Sneaking out can be confusing and it’s good for them to see there is nothing to worry about.
  • Acknowledge their feelings. “Riley, I can see you are sad and don’t want mommy to leave. I have to go, but I will see you when I get off of work today.” What they are experiencing is normal and I strongly believe in reassuring our children of that and offering them a loving gesture, even if it’s brief.

SSBE: Is there a way to prevent separation anxiety, or a way to better prepare for it?
KP: I don’t think there is necessarily a way to prevent separation anxiety altogether, but there are a few things you can do to ease the length or severity:

  • Prepare them for any upcoming changes by talking, reading books, and drawing pictures. Let them know what to expect.
  • For babies and toddlers, present them with plenty of opportunity early on to spend time with other adults, especially relatives and potential caregivers. I recommend starting this around 5-6 months.
  • Allow the child an opportunity to meet new teachers and visit new classrooms before they will be dropped off. This helps them have a visual of what they will experience and mentally prepare.
  • Establish a routine and as much consistency as possible.

SSBE: If a parent is concerned that her child’s separation anxiety may be extreme or lasting too long, when should she seek help from a professional?
KP: With every stage in a child’s development, there are “normal” behaviors that can seem to go too far. If you have a feeling something is not right, talk to your pediatrician or child therapist. As a parent, you are the expert on your child and if something is out of the ordinary, there is no harm in getting more information to ease that nagging feeling in the back of your mind.

I treated one preschool child who developed separation anxiety after learning about the sudden death of a family member. The child cried when mom walked into another room, refused to sleep in their own bed or take a bath without mom near, and was fearful and anxious for most of the day. This is an example of extreme separation anxiety.

SSBE: What resources can you recommend?
KP: There are some fabulous books for the kids out there. Use these to prepare your child for separation or to help ease their separation anxiety.

There are also some helpful reads available for parents:

Thank you, Kim for shedding some light on this often confusing and frustrating behavior in our kids. To learn more about Kim’s background and practice, visit her site, Kim’s Counseling Corner.

How have you dealt with separation anxiety with your kids? After reading this post, what new tips will you take to help ease separation anxiety?

p.s. If you liked what you read, you can subscribe and receive free full-text posts from Sleeping Should Be Easy in your email inbox. Or, tell us what you think about this post on Facebook and Twitter.

20 fun ways to keep a toddler active (guest post and free printable)

20 fun ways to keep a toddler active
Today I’m over at You Just Did What
where I wrote a guest post for fellow blogger Erika. After you read the post, I encourage you to check out the rest of Erika’s blog. She’s a regular SSBE reader, and you’ll often find her in the comments section. Stop by her blog and say hello, especially if you enjoy running and leading an active lifestyle as much as she does.

“Let’s go for a walk around the block,” I suggested to my two-year-old today. He eagerly ran to the front door to put his shoes and hat on, and off we went for a 40-minute stroll up and down our neighborhood. As simple as a walk may be, I rely on these and other similar activities to make sure my little guy gets a bit of movement every day.

In general, we don’t need to push our kids to be active too often: leave them to their own devices and they’ll more often than not find their own inventive ways to keep their bodies moving. Sometimes though, there are times when the entire day seems to have flown by and all we’ve done is sit around the house feeling sluggish without having moved all that much.

Read the rest… and download a printable PDF

p.s. If you liked what you read, you can subscribe and receive free full-text posts from Sleeping Should Be Easy in your email inbox. Or, tell us what you think about this post on Facebook and Twitter.