Jen Wittes
Toddler Time
It started with an innocent Freaky Friday daydream, parenting-columnist style. “Your kids are toddlers now. You should do a guest spot at Toddler Time,” I said to Shannon Keough, Minnesota Parent’s Baby on Board columnist.“And you know babies!” she countered. “Maybe we could trade places for a round?”Well, one thing led to another, and Shannon and I decided to ask our editor if we could make the switch — not once, but permanently. And she said yes! And so this is my very last Toddler... more
A toddler-friendly park
One of the coolest things about toddler parenting is the constant newness — new milestones, new friends, new foods, new experiences. Particularly satisfying is finding a wonderful new place to explore. If you haven’t already, take a trip to Jensen Lake in Eagan. For the sake of discussing the toddler-friendly nature of... more
Duck and cover!
It’s the big “but …” of toddlerhood. As in, “This would be the best age, but ...” or “He’s such a sweet kid, but …”If there’s one thing that universally challenges toddler parents, it’s tantrums. Much like earthquakes, they vary in style, duration, intensity and frequency. Between the ages of 1 and 3, these fits are as certain as a... more
Time out for Dad!
As promised in last month’s issue, Dad’s Night Out (DNO) follows Mom’s Night Out (MNO).I really want to make it clear: You dads need to do this! Though it’s sometimes implied that new fathers inherently have more freedom (you don’t lease your womb to occupants, you don’t breastfeed), you, too, need to remember what it’s like to be... more
Your next Mom's Night Out
Toddler Mom, the time has come to get out of the house. Wait. Let’s reorganize that thought: Out of the house, without child, showered and off to a destination other than Target, the gym, the indoor playground or work. Though you may have previously dabbled in the tradition of a good old Mom’s Night Out — MNO, as the... more
'I will not eat the cat food'
I will try one new food every single day. Willingly. Even cauliflower. I will stop saying the word “mine” and will replace it with, “yours.” Sharing is caring.I will stop suggesting that my baby brother be given away, sent back, sold to the pet store or physically harmed.I will resist the urge to criticize my father’s cooking in... more
Looking up
I recently took a walk around Como Lake in opposition of typical traffic flow.Not only did I see the knockout fall colors from another angle, but I also looked upon more faces. Intrigued, I actually made an effort to smile and nod — maybe say hello — to each and every person (and dog) I passed.Even if I felt shy, even if the... more
Toys schmoys
Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE our annual Toy Issue. My kiddos have participated in the official Minnesota Parent Toy Test, and I even rely on the results for holiday ideas. I’ve also genuinely loved checking out all the cool new toy favorites — old and new — with my kids, neighbors, nieces and nephews during each stage of childhood.... more
The parent vote
By now you likely feel over-saturated with all the election hullaballoo — the commercials, the emails, the Facebook soapboxing, perhaps a tense conversation or two at the dinner table. We’re almost there. It’s almost over.While this probably isn’t your first election, it might be your first major election as a parent — as a toddler... more
Mommy cliches
As they say, a cliche is a cliche because it’s rooted in truth. The phrases roll off our tongues freely because they’re (Exhibit A) lit-er-ally a part of the modern American vernacular. But don’t you get tired of what’s commonly said about you, Mama?I do. Let’s start with wine In the last five years or so, wine has... more
Party on, Toddler!
There are so many rites of passage to behold as we guide our littles through childhood: skinned knees and bad dreams. Barf and birthday parties.Toddler Parent, you may find it curious — even alarming — that your favorite toddler columnist would loosely equate the joy of a birthday party with barf.Oh, but be certain, that choice was... more
100 summer activities for toddlers
1. Cut a watermelon in half and eat immediately with spoons. 2. Master somersaults.3. Have a teddy bear picnic at Teddy Bear Park in Stillwater.4. Take in a matinee with real butter popcorn at the Riverview Theater. Or hit the cheap seats in Hopkins.5. Make your own popsicles.6. Pajama day, all day.7. Make your own play dough.8... more
Do not stand for it
I am a Minnesota parent.I have, for the most part, raised my children here. And, on top of that, I'm lucky enough to have a voice as a columnist and features writer at the magazine that represents our parenting community.But I did not grow up here.I grew up in a predominantly white, sheltered community in Southern California, proximal to... more
Are we still talking about SLEEP?! (Yes.)
The whole shebang starts during your first brave trip to the grocery store, solo, with a 2-week-old: You're rocking a look I might gently call postpartum chic (not in PJs) meets zombie apocalypse (green-grey circles under your eyes, paper-thin pasty skin, hormonally imbalanced and wild-eyed with hunger). A pack of evil grannies... more
Gear up for summer!
In Minnesota, we do a great job of making the most of winter, but we absolutely live for the immense relief at the end of our signature lengthy deep freeze. For parents of littles, there’s extra joy in the shift from bouncing off the walls to running barefoot and carefree through the fresh-cut grass. You’ve spent the winter months... more
Your tot and the doc
By now you’ve probably come to know your pediatrician or family doctor fairly well. There are — after all — nine well visits between birth and the third birthday. And that’s to say nothing of the mysterious rashes, first colds, earaches and bumped heads. I spoke with local pediatrician Ilene Moore of Southside Medical Clinic in... more
Books for parents
Said the gal who writes a parenting column: “What you REALLY need to know about parenting cannot be found in a book, blog or magazine.” If you follow me here at Toddler Time, you know I encourage readers to parent individualistically. We all have different levels of patience, different ideas about how long to breastfeed, different... more
Your obsessed toddler
When my daughter was 2, she developed a fascination with snowmen. We lived in New York at the time and it was an unseasonably warm winter. We weren’t making any actual snowmen, and when we did they weren’t to her liking. She favored round, perfect snowmen drawn on paper, and she asked me to draw them every day. “Draw snowman... more
The Need to Stop Time
“The days are long, but the years are short.”“Enjoy every minute! It goes too fast.”“Don’t you just wish they could stay this way FOREVER?”Ah, the many clichés that we, our own parents and grocery-store busybodies, use to describe the phenomenon of watching our children grow up. The push for milestones, the simultaneous adrenaline... more
Let's talk about sex
The new-mom cliche “touched out” means something different to each individual. For some, it’s something like, “I’m nursing twins, damn it, and if you even look at my boobs, I will find a way to muster up a pair of laser eyes … and I will burn you.” For others, it’s straightforward and simple: “Sleep is the only thing that’s... more
Turn it off and get out!
Parenting has changed. No, I’m not referring to the changes one sees from generation to generation, I’m talking about what it was like to parent a mere 10 years ago.You know what we didn’t have then? Smartphones. Tablets. Phablets. Screen time.Today many of us sleep with our smart phones at the ready (if not under our pillows... more
My first frenemy
There’s a good chance you’ve been hanging with “play groups” since before your child could even roll over. There are so many wonderful ways for parents to connect with peers and likewise expose babies to other babies — even if all that looks like is a small cluster of floor blankets with infants independently exploring their own toes.... more
When toddlers want to 'help'
Perhaps the thought occurred to you with a sharp headache and a grimace, as your toddler sweetly asked, “Can I help?”Maybe you were shamed when — at the neighborhood barbecue — a handful of other parents were already talking about allowance. What? Before potty training?Sometimes the subject comes up when we’re faced with a sudden request... more
Big feelings for toddlers
Parenting a toddler can be — at times — tumultuous, exhausting, frustrating, even farcical. And that’s on a good day! They throw tantrums, they poop their pants, they declare independence when — and only when — you’re running late and don’t have time for them to pick out and put on their own clothes. It’s a wild ride, to say... more
Repeat after me? Um, no.
My son was 2, approaching 3, when he made what is still one of his most iconic declarations. We were trying out Guitar Hero on the Wii and it was his turn to muddle through Pat Benatar. In Pull-Ups, no less, he strapped on the faux guitar and turned to me: “Mama, I’m gonna rock this and you better f***ing clap.”So many emotions,... more
Toddler activities your way
Take a browse through the local parks-and-rec or community ed brochures and you’ll be amazed, if not completely overwhelmed. Our wonderful Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs offer an extensive array of enrichment opportunities for the whole family. Talk to your neighbors and you’ll hear many parents breathlessly list off team... more
Make-believe and marmosets again?
A friend of mine recently confessed, “I don’t have the make-believe gene. I love my kid, but I don’t like to play with him.” While I consider this mama to be one of the very best I know and saw absolutely no shame in her confession, I felt something shamefully “superior” inside. Pride? Relief? Accomplishment?I consider... more
STILL nursing? (You're not alone)
Though the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding to a minimum age of 2 and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends 1 year and beyond, as is mutually desired by mother and child, only 27 percent of U.S. mothers — of the 76.5 percent who breastfed to begin with — are still nursing at 12 months, according to the AAP... more
Winter sanity: Part 2
Technically, the first day of spring falls on March 20.But, in Minnesota, we won’t hold our breath. Around here, March is “in like a lion” and out like a nasty slush pile with a chance of blizzard. We’ve seen snowflakes fall into our Cinco de Mayo margaritas in the past. We’ve packed up the winter coats only to drag them out again a... more
Your new frontier: Discipline!
It can be an uncomfortable transition — from “you are my most precious little baby and I will never deny you anything” to “OK, I think we need to go over some rules.” The change often starts with an incident and an impulsive response — perhaps an unexpected step into the street resulting in a resounding, “NO!” Or maybe a crayon to... more
Stay sane this winter
Minnesota winters, in general, aren’t easy! The meteorologist seems to mock you, relishing buzzwords such as polar vortex, La Niña and — shudder — thunder snow. As you’ve perhaps realized by now, a Minnesota winter with a toddler is an even nastier beast, with temperatures too dangerous for adult human exposure, let alone your child... more
The spoiling curve
Among the many, many things you swore to yourself while waiting to become parents — including but not limited to no screen time, no Dora, no yelling, no sweets — top on the list of good intentions was “no spoiling.” You would raise a well-mannered and thoughtful child. One who says “please” and “thank you,” holds doors open for... more
Toddler Times Two? I Salute You
Toddler parents: There are some among you who deserve a special shout-out. You’re warriors of a different distinction. I’m talking about those of you who have not one but two or — have mercy — three toddlers.Perhaps your “perfect” pink-hued, albeit over-romanticized, pre-pregnancy vision included two angelic little girls — one year apart... more
Toddler meets baby: Sibling love?
My daughter was 2 when her brother was born. I did a million things wrong and a few things right, or so it seemed at the time.  I involved her in the pregnancy. I read the “new baby” picture books. I took time — precious, bleary-eyed time — just days after his birth to sit with her and do puzzles. She got a new sandbox “from... more
Preschool: Just think about it
Preschool. What are you thoughts, Toddler Parent? Wait … let me guess: Is he ready? Am I? My sister-in-law has been on the waiting list since her second trimester: Does that make me a slacker? Potty training! Does he even have to GO to preschool? Can’t we just hang out here like we always have? Montessori kind of freaks me out... more
Potty training: The SATs of toddler parenting
Potty training is like the SATs of toddler parenting — hard, confusing, exhausting, sometimes pointless. Getting through successfully allows you to move on to bigger and better things, but your memories afterward are disjointed and hazy. There are books, boot camps, videos, trained professionals, singing toilet seats, sticker... more
Your child's emerging personality
Before motherhood, I maintained a normal, healthy relationship with dinosaurs. I mean, I’d been to the natural history museums in New York and D.C., as well as the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. I’ve seen huge finds — fossils and murals — and tour guides stage-whispering, “Can you even imagine a living creature THIS tremendous?”... more
'Try It' and error: 'Picky' eaters
They go from breast or bottle to something mashed and messy — big grins and sticky hands. They examine individual peas and black beans before giving them a taste. They delight in the rite-of-passage, first-birthday frosting face; and they want to try everything on your plate.And then, one day — suddenly and without warning — bananas are... more
‘No!’ and ‘uh-oh’: talking safety
During the toddler years, you move from baby to big kid, from baby-wearing to holding hands, from “Ah goo” to “No!” complete with foot stomping. This new independence is breathtaking, in every sense of the word. You clap, hoot and holler as your child jumps into the pool — your loving arms outstretched and waiting, heart beating... more
Earth Day the toddler way
With Earth Day approaching, you might be wondering how to involve your toddler in the ecological discussion. They are old enough now to enjoy some Earth Day events, participate in eco-friendly habits such as recycling, and even start to see that their world goes beyond your finished basement.“Now wait, Jen,” some of you might say, “we... more
The importance of creative play
There is a sweet duality in the developing toddler brain — boundless imagination alongside a tendency to be extremely literal. We ask them not to actually eat the dusty, colorful fallen leaves on the ground and later make a “garden salad.” Or we watch as they stare — perplexed — at the dark sky, after the announcement that it’s... more
Living with the Hulk
Tan-trum [tan-truh m] noun. A demonstration of rage or frustration; a sudden burst of ill temper. Synonymous with: the toddler years.Toddlers are cute, cuddly, and hilarious—a barrel of fun and wonder and butterfly kisses. They are also miniature versions of the Incredible Hulk—easily provoked and instantly transformed from a total... more
Amazing
I often find myself fascinated; observing what I feel are perhaps my natural habitat’s most incredible creatures: toddlers—and their parents.Seriously. I stand there in the coffee aisle at Target, head tilted, watching as a mother explains—for at least the fifteenth time—that, “the shopping cart is not, in fact, a racecar…Honey."Mouth... more