Pom-Poms to the Rescue

IMG_20170318_164944My granddaughter loves balls. Or anything that looks remotely like a ball. She often has marbles and rocks jammed into her little fist. Though I’ve taught her that these items don’t go into her mouth, I don’t really trust her. She’ll lock eyes with me and slowly raise the marble or rock to her lips, waiting for me to object.

“No, no,” I’ll say. “We don’t want to eat that. Yuck.”

She’ll obligingly lower her hand, and then watching my face carefully, she’ll repeat the process.

So, to distract her from the rocks and marbles she finds I’ve given her balls of different colors and sizes. It’s worked beautifully so far.

Until recently her biggest ball was a four-inch clear pink glittery one I got at the dollar store. It was so popular that this week I bought her an even bigger ball at a kid’s thrift sale. Her new ball is red with white polka dots and at least a foot in diameter.

I thought she’d love it, but she’s been giving it the cold shoulder. I think the red ball is too big for her to handle right now, mentally or physically. It’s like giving her a Great Dane when what she really wants is a Chihuahua.

In our granddaughter’s toy box are balls that light up if you bounce them hard enough, small balls with bells (actually cat toys), and a soft, squeezy fabric ball. A few months ago I found a pink golf ball, which I washed and gave to her. She was delighted. It fit perfectly in her little hand, and the pink golf ball quickly became her favorite.

 

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A few of my granddaughter’s favorite balls

However, I have growing reservations about this ball because our granddaughter is learning to throw, and she has a pretty good arm for a toddler. Just ask my husband, who had a split-second to duck when he asked her to toss him the pink golf ball and she lobbed it at his head like she was a pint-sized Nolan Ryan. Grandpa will be the first to tell you that his little granddaughter’s speed and accuracy are really improving.

 

For that reason, the pink golf ball is beginning to look like a bad idea, especially in the house. But how do we take it away from her? Anyone who’s around children knows that unless you enjoy tantrums you don’t remove a favored toy without trading something in return. Even if the object in question is clearly, ridiculously dangerous, like a bag of broken glass, you don’t yank it out of their little hands without offering a replacement, like a bag of Styrofoam blocks.

So, to soften the disappearance of the golf ball I thought of pom-poms. I got the idea when my granddaughter came back from daycare with a paper cut-out of the letter P covered with pasted-on pom-poms. She carefully pried each pom-pom off the paper and played with them for the rest of the afternoon.

I went to the craft store and bought a big bag of 300 pom-poms in different colors and sizes. I poured them into a round box and when she saw them she dug her hands right in, grabbing as many as she could and throwing them into the air, laughing. And I laughed with her because I’m an indulgent grandmother and more tolerant of messes than I used to be.

 

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“What fresh hell is this?” thinks our cat.

We stuffed pom-poms into her tea set, into her stacking cups, and wherever else we could think of. As we looked for new places to stuff the fuzzy things, she kept repeating “balls” with enthusiasm. Soon we may start sorting them, by size or by color, if she’s interested. But only if wants to.

 

Now, pom-poms do have some disadvantages. They’re light and fly everywhere. I’ve been finding them under the sofa, under the cat, in the dog’s dish and in crevices all around the house.

But unlike buttons and other small objects, pom-poms don’t seem to be mouth-magnets. If you step on a pom-pom barefoot in the middle of the night you probably won’t hop up and down swearing, like you would if you stumble on a Lego. And if a pom-pom gets thrown at your head, even a big pom-pom, you won’t get hurt.

As for putting pom-poms in her mouth, Little One hasn’t tried that yet, and I’m being vigilant. But I think I could explain a pom-pom finding its way through her digestive system and into her diaper much better than I could a pebble.

Yay for pom-poms!

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Babyproofing Grandma’s pets

As regular readers of this blog know, I have a 20-month-old granddaughter. What I haven’t mentioned is that I also have a 55-lb, 10-year-old Sheltie dog and a big old cat (he’s at least 15 pounds of cat meat and fur, and since he’s a rescue his age is indeterminate).

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Our Kitty Bear can easily hypnotize you with those eyes of his

My granddaughter is at an age where she’s all over the house and into everything (a subject I discussed in this post on babyproofing grandma’s house). I try to make my home safe for her to play in. Do I need to be concerned about my pets, too? Do pets need to be babyproofed?

 

Yes, and yes.

Now, as far as the cat goes, we’re pretty lucky. Unlike some felines, our big guy tolerates children pretty well. He’s greedy for affection and purrs whenever someone comes near. He even allows our toddler to use him as a model to name body parts. “Eyes” she says, pointing at his gold-green orbs. Our cat just blinks. She can practically sit on him and he won’t react. When he’s had enough of her he slips under the bed beyond her reach.

But the dog is a different matter. He’s a senior in dog years, and he’s always been a bit neurotic. He’s also deeply obsessed with squirrels. He spends the greater part of his waking moments barking at them, watching them cavort in our backyard and chasing them whenever he gets a chance. Sometimes I think he sees our granddaughter, especially when she’s running erratically around the house, as a big, hairless and tail-less squirrel.

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Our Toby  searching for squirrels in the snow

Toby snaps when he’s irritated – he’s snapped at me and my husband. That makes him a decided hazard to our granddaughter. But even the best-tempered dog in the world can injure a child.

 

Last week, I had a conversation with another grandmother in a parking lot while I was lifting my granddaughter out of a shopping cart and buckling her into her car seat. I noticed the woman’s Golden Retriever waiting calmly in her car behind her as we talked.

This other grandma told me about her friend, whose family dog bit her grandkid. The child bothered the dog while the animal was eating, and it reacted instinctively. She told me that now she takes extra precautions with her Golden around her own grandkids, even though her gentle dog looks like he wouldn’t harm a flea.

Dog bites are serious. Most dogs’ mouths are face-level with a small child’s. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that over 4.5 million people in the US are bitten by dogs each year and that approximately half of the 800,000 who see a doctor for their injuries are children. That’s 400,000 kids a year who are on record as being bitten by a dog. And there are probably a lot more bite injuries that aren’t reported.

The AAP provides some great tips on how to prevent dog bites and also explains what to do if your child is bitten.

The top prevention tip? Never leave a dog and a small child alone together.

It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a beloved family Labrador or Grandma’s prized Pekingese. Any dog can bite, especially if it’s cornered, surprised or guarding its food bowl – all situations a child can easily stumble into.

My husband and I are paranoid on this subject, having witnessed a dog biting a child many years before we had grandchildren. So at our house, we avoid any risks by putting Toby in a separate room behind a baby gate when our granddaughter comes to visit. He doesn’t like it, but he gets treats and attention, especially after she leaves.

And our kitty? I monitor his interactions with our granddaughter as well. I never leave the two of them alone together. After all, he has sharp claws, and an almost-two-year-old could try the patience of a saint.

Perhaps a bird or a fish would be a safer pet to have around grandkids, but then, there are potential problems there, too. When our son was little he managed to find the knob on the back of the aquarium that controlled the heater, and before I knew what he was up to he’d poached a whole tankful of fish.

Sometimes our pets need to be protected from kids as much as kids need to be protected from them!

What steps do you take to childproof your pets for your kids or grandkids?