Get Ready For Preschool!

Written By:  Allison Genovese M.S. ABA, BCBA, LABA

The time has come for your little one to start preschool! This marks a new chapter in your child’s life and yours as well. A chapter certain to be filled with new adventures, friendships, increased independence and joy. But despite all this you may find yourself asking, “Is my child really ready for this … and am I?”

Whether you plan to start sending your child to preschool next week, next fall or next year, there are some strategies you can start applying now to help make this transition a positive and successful one for all.

PROCEED WITH CONFIDENCE. Feeling comfortable and having trust in the preschool you will be sending your child to is essential. Take the time you need to tour different centers, meet the teachers and directors, spend time in the class and speak with other parents to hear their experiences.

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To continue reading this article from Staten Island Parent Magazine, click here!

The Elf Is Waiting…

By Debbie Gardner

He’s cute. He’s perky. And he’s Santa’s – and parents’ – best holiday helper.

The Elf on the Shelf – from the 2005 book by Carol Aebersold and her daughter, Chandra Bell – has exploded from a holiday-inspired tale to a cultural phenomenon in just a little over a decade. Pinterest is full of inspiration on where to place your elf, how to announce his arrival, and how to use his presence to encourage good behavior in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“We used to have Santa watching you, now we have an actual Elf that pops up in homes and watches you,” said Allison Genovese, Vice President of Early Childhood Programs at Realizing Children’s Strengths and Mini-Miracles Early Education & Childcare Center in Natick, MA. “Every evening the elf pops off to the North Pole and reports and comes back every morning.”

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To continue reading this article from The Reminder, click here!

Tantrums In Public

Written By:  Allison Genovese M.S. ABA, BCBA, LABA

We have all been there.  Standing in the middle of a department store trying to stay calm when your child is laying sprawled out on the floor, screaming louder than a fire alarm, all because you said “no” to purchasing another batman figurine that would likely be forgotten about, even before you arrive home!

So, what do you do?  Breathe? Yes, that sounds good.  Cry?  Maybe.  Walk away and pretend that ill-behaved child is not yours?  Tempting, but no.  Give in and get that silly toy because you would pay anything at this point to avoid this public embarrassment?  Sounds better by the second but you know if you do it this time, this horror show will likely occur every time you go out.  Pick up your wailing child in defeat, put down the items you were hoping to purchase, walk out of the store with your head held low and pretend to not see those eyes looking at you?  Yup, we have all been there.

While this experience is somewhat of a rite of passage for new parents and not completely avoidable, there are some simple steps you can take to decrease the likelihood of it happening; as well as some good tips to give you the confidence to come out of it unscathed should you find yourself in that situation.

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The best way to deal with tantrums in public? Don’t! 

Before you take your child out in public make sure he or she is well rested, well fed and knows the expectations of both the outing and his or her behavior.

Skipping naptime to take a quick trip to the grocery store instead=not ideal!  Although it is often tempting to run that one extra errand, think twice about it if you know your child is getting tired and hungry.   The errand that was supposed to take 2 minutes can quickly take 20 if it ends in a meltdown.  So, if possible just head home, regroup and revisit later in the day.  You won’t regret it!

Setting clear expectations is key but often something we all forget to do.  In today’s world, we are rushing around without thinking twice. You go into auto-pilot as you strap your child in and head to the local pharmacy.  However, your child’s active imagination may be thinking they are on their way to an amusement park and you can bet that when they arrive somewhere else the tears will come too!  So, it is key to remember to take the minute to explain to your child where you are going, what you are going to do when you get there, how long you will be there, what you expect them to do when you say it is time to go, and the overall expectations for their behavior while out.  Consider putting a small sticker or note on your steering wheel or front door as a reminder.

Practice makes perfect: 

There are definitely some triggers when it comes to tantrums in public. One common trigger is denied access.  This can be in the form of being told “no” when they pass something they want in a store or being told “no” when they ask to go somewhere else (like the toy aisle).  If you identify these as triggers for your child, then practice and work on them in more controlled and comfortable situations like your own home!  Talk about it, set clear expectations for when your child will or will not get to choose an item from a store, and role play.  Reinforce your child when they meet the expectations-something as simple as praise, a hug from you, high-fives or maybe even a sticker, depending on your child’s preference.  Make it fun!  Once they are doing well with it at home, try it out in public-pick a small, uncrowded place to start then once your child is doing well, you are ready to conquer the real-world situations!  Bring it on Chucky Cheese!

Another common trigger is that dreaded 4-word phrase, “It’s time to go”!   No one likes to leave a favorite place but it is part of every single outing.  So, to avoid the bye-bye break down, first, give your child a warning of 1-5 minutes prior to leaving a preferred place.  This gives them time to try take one last turn or finish up their current activity.  It also gives them time to process what is coming next.  The next step is sticking to it. If you say it, you have to do it, otherwise it is very confusing when sometimes 5 minutes means an hour and other times it means 5 seconds.  Set a timer on your phone if that helps them follow through.  When the time is up, it’s time to go, simple as that.  As mentioned above, practice this at home first and then at small public places where you will not be scrutinized if it ends with you carrying your crying child out.  Identify reinforces for when your child successfully leaves an area and also try to plan your schedule accordingly.  Is your child leaving the awesome museum to get the flu shot?  You can pretty much bank on a tantrum here.  Instead, try to get less preferred activities out of the way first, or at least not scheduled directly after something really preferred.

Divided attention can also be to blame for those public breakdowns.  Does your child jump to hysterics when your attention shifts from her every word to having a conversation with the neighbor you ran into at the post office?  Once again, this is a skill that can be worked on when at home by setting the expectation for what your child should do when you are talking to someone else. You can teach them how to get your attention appropriately (“excuse me!”) and then role play a bit.  This is a tough concept for most kids to grasp, especially first born and only children who truly believe the world revolves around them-because it does!  Just keep in mind, if your child cannot consistently tolerate divided attention at home, they won’t miraculously be able to do it in public without a little work first.

Ok so the moment of truth is upon us.  Despite your best efforts and working on everything mentioned above, you are here, in the middle of the department store with your screaming child thrashing and bawling on the floor beside you.  What do you do?

  1. Quickly assess the situation:  Why is he or she doing this?
    1. Is it because you said no or used the above mentioned 4-word phrase, “It’s time to go”?
      • If so, follow through. No means no and there is no backing down now.  Doing so would simply reinforce this behavior which would make it more likely to happen again and again. So, gather your screaming child, restate the expectations calmly and walk past that coveted batman toy and don’t look back.  If it is in response to having to leave, pick up your child and leave.  Do not let this behavior delay having to leave.
    2. Is it because you are talking to that neighbor you unexpectedly ran into?
      • Finish your sentence-even If you child has quickly transformed to a puddle on the ground. Remind your child of the correct way to get your attention and do not let that tantrum be the way he or she reclaims your undivided attention.
    3. Is it because your child does not want to be there? He was finished with the grocery store the moment you walked in the door!
      • This one takes some courage. It is important that your child’s behavior does not become their way of getting to leave places they do not want to be, so you have to ride this one out.  Make it clear that you are leaving on your terms, when you are done doing what you need to do and not because of their behavior. Keep your head held high as you walk through the aisle with your child screaming in the cart, smile at those who may be staring… chances are they have been in your shoes before and are just happy it is you and not them…this time!  Do not get discouraged and trust that by enduring this you are likely decreasing the odds that this will happen again in the future.
    4. Is it because despite your best intentions that meal or nap was skipped and now your child is hungry and tired?
      • It’s ok, it happens to the best of us. You played the odds but in the end, you lost this one.  Your child is beyond being reasoned with and the best option is to accept defeat, pack up and head out as quickly as you can.  The priority is meeting your child’s needs.

Dealing with tantrums in public is not easy no matter how you slice it, so the best approach is always trying to set your child up proactively to have a successful outing.  When best intentions fail, as they sometimes do, remember to stay calm and choose the correct approach for the situation.  You will be surprised how much easier it is to deal with a public tantrum when you feel prepared and confident in your approach versus helpless and defeated.








Tips for Helping Toddlers Sleep

Written By:  Allison Genovese M.S. ABA, BCBA


Just when you think those endless sleepless nights are a thing of the past, when Starbucks can once again be regarded as a treat and not a medical necessity, you are awoken suddenly by your screaming toddler.  You run into his room to see what could be going on only to learn that he needed, in that exact moment at 2:00 am, to tell you that rocks in fact do not make good pets and that he loves you.  You walk back to your room smiling and giggling a little at the active imagination of your little one, but that wears off quickly as these night wakings become a regular thing.  You find yourself shuffling off to your child’s room countless times throughout the night as they scream for you, to tell you they need the bathroom, to have you check for monsters under the bed, to tell you about that thing that happened at camp today, or to ask you to sit or sleep with them (just for a few minutes Mom!) or to tell you that at 3:46am they have all their energy and do not need to sleep anymore. Read more!

If this sounds all too familiar rest assured that you are in the same boat as many other parents with toddlers.   While there is no scientific reasoning for why this happens, it is commonly documented that around the age of 2 many toddlers experience a sudden increase in night wakings.  If you have ruled out any medical reasons that could be to blame and still are missing those precious zzz’s then take a look below at some potential reasons why your little one may be waking up and for some potential solutions to try.


  1. No one actually sleeps through the night.

Our night’s sleep is actually comprised of several sleep cycles.  For a toddler these sleep cycles last around an hour or less.  Most kids wake up, albeit briefly, at the end of every cycle. The trick is making sure that they are able to put themselves back to sleep-on their own.   If your child is not able to put themselves to sleep on their own that could be a reason why you are getting woken up every few hours.

Solution:  Establish a consistent bedtime routine at an early age and make sure that the final steps of that routine (the final moments before your child goes to sleep) are things that can be recreated in your absence.  For example, rocking or nursing your child to sleep is something that cannot be recreated without you.  If your child becomes dependent on these activities to go to sleep then they are likely going to need you to help them go back to sleep if they wake up throughout the night.  Have the goal of your nighttime routine be for it to end with your child in the bed awake but drowsy so those final moments of dosing off to sleep are done on their own.


  1. An active imagination may be to blameemma

At this age our little one’s imaginations are very active which can be a wonderful and usually very entertaining part of development.  The problem is when those active imaginations are set free in a dark, quiet room and visions of monsters and creepy crawlies start to take over.

Solution:  One approach here is to fight an over active imagination with an even more active imagination. Have your child help you create a monster potion (made of warm water in a spray bottle) and before bed time go around with him/ her and spray this potion anywhere monsters may creep in.  Place the potion next to the child’s bed for a sense of security throughout the night should a monster manage to creep in.   A nightlight, cuddle buddy or flashlight kept on the nightside table are also some good strategies to help your little one rest a little more soundly and bravely!


  1. The concept of time is very abstract for a toddler.

During the toddler years, time is a very difficult concept to grasp.  Children typically understand that dinner time is for eating, play time is for playing and nighttime is for sleeping although the numerical times like 8:00am, 12:00pm mean nothing.  So when your little one wakes up at 2:00am full of energy they may think that nighttime is done and playtime is here.  When you try to explain that it is still nighttime because it is 2:00am that often does not provide them with a sufficient answer they can grasp and instead leads to lots of debate (…but I’m not tired!).

Solution:  Visuals are a great way to help your little one get a better grasp of time.  Whether it is a visual schedule outlining the day’s events, or a more specific visual depicting bedtime versus morning time, these can be a great tool for any parent.  One great resource to use is programmable visual clocks for kids.  With these clocks parents can set the time they want to set for bedtime versus morning time.  One visual (like a specific color or a farm animal laying in a bed-see photo) is displayed for bedtime and then when the time that the parent set as morning time approaches the visual independently changes to cue the child that it is morning time (the animal is shown dancing outside or the color changes).

alarmclock           alarmclock1

This was a HUGE help for me with my own kids.  Now when your child wakes at the middle of the night you no longer have to try to debate or explain why you should be in your bed at 2:00am and rather just refer to the clock-“Look Emma the cow on your clock is sleeping that means you should be sleeping.  When the cow wakes up you can get out of bed”.


  1. When not enough sleep leads to even less sleep 

Ever plan a super fun packed day where you and your little one are on the go all day long and there isn’t even time for a nap?  You go to bed at night thinking that your little one will sleep like a log-but the opposite happens and your tot is up all night long.  The truth is sleep deprivation can be one of the main causes for restlessness at night.  This can be very trying during the toddler years where their new found independence and imagination takes center stage and the want/ need for them to nap starts to become a thing of the past.

Solution:  More sleep!  Toddlers require about 12-14 hours of sleep.  Many toddlers divide their sleep between a solid night’s sleep and one nap lasting 1-3 hours.  If you child requires a nap then it is important to factor time in for this during their daily mylesschedule.  Having naps happen at the same time every day sets a predictable routine that the child can adjust to and makes nap time more likely to be successful.  The tips mentioned above including the programmable visual clock to cue when the child should be sleeping and establishing routines around naptime that end with the child falling asleep independently still apply here.  If you and your child have decided that a nap is no longer needed it still is a good idea to schedule in some quiet time in place of where naps usually happened.  Quiet time gives children an opportunity to take a break from running around and rest a bit with quiet and relaxing activity.  Good quiet time activities include books, puzzles, felt boards, some arts and crafts, etc.  This gives the child an opportunity to rest for a little bit before it is time to kick it back into high gear.  If they are really tired this may be a time for them to realize that and opt to take a short nap.


  1. Good questions to ask

If the above scenarios don’t seem to apply and you are at a loss with why your little one’s night wakings persist, here are some questions to ask yourself and will possibly help you arrive at a solution.

  1. Do your child’s night wakings result in some special 1 on 1 attention with Mom or Dad that is not available to them throughout the day?
    • If the answer is YES, try to make sure there are opportunities throughout the day when your child can get this attention that he/ she is craving and be sure that you limit the amount of attention you provide in the middle of the night. Just a quick redirect back to bed and pat on the back is all they should get when redirecting back to sleep.
  2. Does your child appear to engage in night wakings to get access to getting into your bed or getting out of their own bed?
    • If the answer is YES, then you know what needs to happen next! This is the time to stand firm on your decision to have your child sleep in his/ her own bed.  If you put your child to bed in their room and they wake up repeatedly at night until you finally get so tired that you agree they can cuddle up with you then it may be time to put an end to this once and for all.  It won’t be easy and may result in a few restless nights for you and your little one but these few restless nights are a small price to pay for getting your full nights sleep back once and for all!
  3. Now be honest…when your child wakes up at night and you are deliriously tired do you ever make promises for toys, games, privileges that are not usually offered up. For example, “Please Joey if you just go to sleep now then I will let you pick out a new toy at the store today. JUST PLEASE GO TO SLEEP!”
    • If this is a scenario you can relate to them it is time to switch things up. While rewarding good behavior-like sleeping-is a good thing, you want to make sure it is on your terms and not just in response to some bad behaviors.   Setting up a token board or sticker chart could be a great way to help your child understand what is expected of them at night and have a system in place to reward a good night’s sleep.  Simply set a criteria or number of days of sleeping through the night that you think is realistic for your child to achieve in a short time period.  Review the specific rules of what they must do to get a sticker (stay in your bed all night with a quiet voice, etc).  Have your child help make the sticker chart and choose stickers or tokens that they enjoy like a favorite T.V. character or favorite color.  Have them choose what they would like to earn once they fill in their sticker chart.  It can be something small like a favorite dessert after dinner or to play a special game with Mom or something more tangible like a new small toy.  Just make sure it is something that is motivating.  Review the expectations every night before bed and if your little one sleeps through the night be sure to immediately reward them with a sticker to add to their chart and lots of praise.  If they didn’t sleep through the night or meet the expectations laid out just review that in a calm way in the morning and leave it on an encouraging note “I know you can do this-let’s try again tonight”!

Hopefully this article leaves you with some new ideas to try out, to get your little one back on track to sleep through the night, and help you return to some sense of normality-or at least a little more rested to deal with the day’s adventures!



 About the Author: Allison Genovese, M.S. ABA, BCBA is the Director of Early Childhood  Programs for RCS Behavioral and Educational Consulting, which provides exceptional Applied  Behavior Analysis (ABA) services to children with Autism and their families between the ages  of 0-6 years old throughout the state of Massachusetts.  Allison is a Board Certified Behavior  Analyst with over 12 years of experience working with children with developmental disabilities  and their families.  In addition to her training and education within the fields of Autism, Early  Education and ABA she is also a Mom of 2 children ages 1 and 3.  So you can trust this article  was fueled by a large pot of coffee and combines both clinical and personal experiences!

Give Your Family A Fighting Chance This Season!

Written By: Allison Genovese, Director of Early Childhood Programs


It is official…the cold and flu season is upon us and with the flu spreading at epidemic like rates this year it is time to arm yourself and your family with the only weapon strong enough to stand up to those nasty germs. So what is this weapon you ask? Well, good hygiene of course!  Hand washing, when done correctly, continues to be the only proven defense against germs.


Easy enough right? Wrong!

The truth is many of us don’t wash our hands completely so instead of washing away those germs we just rub them around a bit getting them all ready to stand up and attack their next victim. This is especially true when it comes to children who will avoid the hassle of hand washing at all costs or race to complete it with super hero like speed-so quickly in fact that us parents sometimes to do not even hear the water turn on despite our children’s promise that they really did wash their hands! Sometimes the fight to get our little ones to wash their hands is just too much hassle and it is easier to turn to those convenient hand sanitizers. Did you know that hand sanitizers, while great to use when on the go, do not kill all types of germs as hand washing does?

So here are some easy tips to help establish good hand washing at an early age and give your family a fighting chance this cold and flu season.

  1. First, let’s establish what correct hand washing really means. Simply put, 20 seconds of active scrubbing on both sides of your hands with soap and water is what you need to get the job done. Setting a timer if available or singing “Happy Birthday” is a good way to know you have reached that important 20 second mark. A couple verses from the Frozen song “Let it Go” is also a great way to help reach that 20 second mark and we know you just cannot get enough of that song, right?!


  1. Make hand washing fun for your kids. Use your child’s interests and favorite characters to create a fun game with hand washing. For example: have your child pretend to be Doc McStuffins and wash her hands before she can operate on Stuffy! Or give your little guy a secret mission to destroy all the germs in Germsville (his hands) before it is too late! You will have your little ones racing to the sink with this trick!


  1. Sometimes the simplest things can make the biggest difference. Have your child pick out their own soap and towel to use for hand washing-this may just be enough to make them look forward to it! You can find soap bottles with all of your children’s favorite characters at the local store.  Or for a money saving trick-just replace your current soap label with a sticker of your child’s favorite character and tada!-boring soap is turned into super cool Mickey Mouse soap in a second!


4.   Feeling crafty? Check out Pinterest for some quick and easy ways to make your own soap. A perfect project for a snowy day!  You can make all different shapes, sizes, and scents and switch them out to keep your child interested. (Soap crayons idea was found at

soapcrayons     legosoap

  1. Modeling good hand washing is one of the best ways to teach your child. Model it every time you wash your hands and get some waterproof toys and puppets involved in the fun as your model good hand washing on them too!


  1. Establish routines early and stick with them. Make sure your child gets in the habit of washing their hands every time they come home from school, the park, a play date, etc. Make sure hand washing becomes a regular routine before every meal and snack time as well.


  1. Does your child always seem to forget a step along the way? Try using visuals and posting it near the sink until good and complete hand washing patterns are established. Take pictures, draw (if your artistic) or just pull some pictures from the internet about all the steps involved in hand washing including; rolling up your sleeves, turning on the water, getting soap, scrubbing for 20s, rinsing the soap off, turning off the water and drying your hands.  Put the pictures in sequential order and laminate to prevent from getting wet (clear packing tape works just as well as laminate here).  This will help your child remember all the steps and help you from having to continuously repeat yourself “did you remember to use soap?”!


So now you are officially armed with the best defense againt germs this cold and flu season!

Happy hand washing!

Mini-Miracles Celebrates Halloween (2013)

MMCC blog
On October 31st, Mini-Miracles Early Education & Childcare celebrated Halloween in style! All of our students were encouraged to wear their costumes to school to participate in our annual Halloween Parade to neighboring businesses here in Natick! All of our kids enjoyed the parade and got a lot of great treats and snacks. A special thank you to Coffee Pond Photography, Little Flippers, and IVG MetroWest for opening your doors so our kids could experience the childhood tradition of trick-or-treating!

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