Wednesday, 4 March 2020

How to Waste Less and Own Less with a Child

It's already March...a bit past New Year's resolutions, but this is still on a lot of people's to do lists. Even if we’re far from being hoarders, sometimes we end up accumulating piles of toys, clothes, stuff we’ve used once or twice and then forgot about it. This is much worse when we have children, because they outgrow their clothes and toys so fast, they barely get to use them.

I’ve been trying to get rid of as much stuff as possible. Being a minimalist would be a dream come true, but I’m not there yet…not even close. I want to make more time for the important things in life. Rather than dusting and taking an eternity to vacuum because I need to move stuff out of the way, I want to spend that time playing with my daughter, doing sports with my partner, or reading.

Here are a few ideas that have helped in this respect. As I mentioned, I still have a long way to go, but at least I started the process.

· We rotate toys – keeping toys in the storage helps when it comes to cleaning, and my daughter doesn’t get the chance to get bored with toys that easily, because she doesn’t have all of them at her disposal.

· We’ve donated old clothes and baby toys. Try to find friends with younger children or donate them to orphanages. If you think you might have another baby, give them to a friend, then get them back in a few months, when their baby has grown.

· Teach kids how it feels to give to others in need and to donate. They’ll understand the importance of this gesture and might continue as adults, if they are taught from an early age. I let my daughter go through the old clothes we’re going to donate and explain that they will make someone else really happy.

· Teach kids respect for belongings. The toys won’t get broken as often.

· If your children enjoy sensory play with food, that’s fine. Try to reuse materials as much as possible. I store cloud dough, playdough, lentils, pasta, coloured rice in air-tight containers or zip lock bags in a cool dry place. That seems to work.

· Instead of buying new books, try to borrow more from the local library. That’s how I test if my daughter enjoys a specific book. If I feel like she’s going to enjoy reading it for a long time, I’ll think about buying it.

· Choose books made from recycled paper.

· Choose less, but higher-quality toys. When it comes to my child, I prefer buying very few toys that are of great quality, sustainable, and dyed with child-safe paint, rather than getting a lot of cheap toys that won’t last and that might be unsafe. Better quality toys can be sold and reused by siblings.

· Open ended toys are more versatile and can be used in endless ways. Think of building blocks, balls, boxes, scarves, etc. Your children will get a lot of use from those toys and will be able to develop their creativity.

· Visit different playgrounds, museums, and find things to do outside of the house too. That way, you won’t need to rely on new toys to keep your child engaged. However, when you have more than one child, it’s a bit easier – they socialize and learn a lot by being together.

· Ask relatives to give experiences as gifts: museum visits, movie tickets, philharmonic concerts, trip to the zoo, to the aquarium, etc.

· Find soap that also works as shampoo, or a basic cream that works for the entire body. Try to use hygiene products that are natural and without perfume.

· Choose organic, recyclable, or reusable products: wooden toothbrush, reusable cotton pads to wash your baby’s face, cloth nappies, repurpose muslin cloths as towels or napkins afterwards;

· When out and about, pack cooked food in glass containers or use reusable food pouches with porridge, yogurt, or smoothie. I sometimes buy the ready-made porridge pouches, but I’m trying to do it less often. Sometimes I just don’t have time at home, or something unexpected comes up and I don’t have something to pack.

· Use a floor bed from the beginning, instead of a crib, because your baby will anyways outgrow the crib and you’ll need a new frame – this is, of course, a major change. It has worked for us, but it might not work for you.

· Most mums don’t function properly without coffee. But getting coffee to go in paper cups is not ok. Invest in a good thermos and you’ll be much happier…the environment as well.

What other suggestions do you have? I’m sure I forgot some. I might have to come back to this post.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Practical Life Skills - Doing Groceries and Putting them Away

E.’s new favourite activity is joining me while I do groceries. As soon as we are close to the store, she says “sus”, which means “up”, because she wants to get out of the pram. It does take a little longer to do groceries with her, but it makes her extremely happy. We always stop by the pet supply aisle, to look at the pictures of animals. I help her get the products that we need from the shelf, then she puts them in the basket. After we're done shopping, we then go and have breakfast and eat the berries that we bought. That’s my favourite part.

At home, she helps me put the groceries away. We load them into the walker wagon, then she pushes it into the kitchen. She sometimes also puts things in the fridge, but only when it’s not already packed with stuff.

The next step will be introducing a shopping list with pictures, for her to have a visual aid of what we need to get. I love how much more independent she has become in the last few months!

If you liked this post, read also:
How a One-Year-Old can Help Around the House

Friday, 24 January 2020

Ways to Improve Your Toddler’s Vocabulary

A lot of the tantrums arise from the fact that toddlers have emotions that they can’t express with words. So, helping your child grasp new words and make himself understood is truly important. It can help create connections and it will definitely make your lives easier. That’s why I thought it’s good to talk about about a few ways to improve your one-year-old’s vocabulary (these ideas work well for older kids, too).

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when talking about vocabulary is books. My daughter absolutely loves nonfiction lift-the-flap books with realistic pictures. If they’re about farm animals or vehicles, it’s even better. I suggest choosing books with realistic pictures, because then children will learn what the object/being represented actually looks like. And for very young children, the fewer details and pictures on a page, the better. Try to find books that are related to your child’s interests and to everyday routines; that way, you’ll be able to teach vocabulary that your child will hear in different contexts too.

I’m also a big fan of teaching a language through songs and rhymes. Children of all ages enjoy a funny rhyme, or a song sung in a silly voice. I also invent songs describing what we are doing together and about daily routines (brushing teeth, changing a diaper, getting dressed, washing hands). The trick is to use a well-known tune, so you don’t forget it. My daughter enjoys doing the actions in songs and she has favourite songs that she asks to sing by doing the gestures.

Basic vocabulary is built by using a set of words daily, until your child has grasped the concepts and is able to understand the words in other contexts too. That’s why it’s important to communicate to your child what you are doing or what is happening. Objects that she uses daily are more important for her and she needs to learn them early on.

Introducing some basic sign language also helps your child make herself understood. I warmly recommend Baby Signs: How to Talk with Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk by Linda Acredolo, Ph.D., and Susan Goodwyn, Ph.D. I started introducing some signs when E. was six months old and I hope it will help her when she starts daycare in a different language than the one that we speak at home.

I’m a teacher that’s nuts about laminators and label makers…so of course I made posters and flashcards for E. to play with. We have some posters of animals, body parts, and feelings, that go with certain songs (If You’re Happy, Happy, Happy, Old MacDonald, Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, etc.). E. also enjoys playing with realistic animals from Schleich, so I made flashcards for her to match. She still needs help; I usually take the flashcard, name the animal, and then she puts the toy animal on top of the flashcard. Later on, I will introduce pictures that look different from her toys and we’ll also match the animals to the same animals in books.

How do you help your child learn new words?

If you liked this post, you might also be interested in reading:
How to Make a Song Bag for Endless Hours of Fun
Word Twister
Song and Game with Sea Animals

Saturday, 18 January 2020

A Song About Farm Animals

We have this new set of magnetic farm animals from Djeco and I wanted to teach E. another song besides Old MacDonald. I’m kind of bored with it, and probably Emma will soon be too.

I created this resource a very long time ago and posted it on TPT - with a song I invented and some printable stick puppets - but I couldn’t remember exactly how the song went. So, I re-invented the song, to go with the wooden figurines. Maybe your kids will enjoy singing it too. If you don’t have the toy set, I recommend printing some photos and laminating them. I just placed an animal behind the house and then made it pop up from behind it.

The song goes like this (to the tune of “London Bridge is Falling Down”):
Can you guess who’s in the house, in the house, in the house?
Can you guess who’s in the house?
Let’s knock and we’ll find out!

With very young kids, you can stop after the questions and just say “Oh, it’s a/an…”.

The Romanian version goes like this:
Poti ghici cine-i aici,
cine-i aici, cine-i aici?
Bate la usa “cioc, cioc, cioc”
Si vei afla.

E. had much more patience with the song in the morning and waited until the animals popped out from behind the house, but in the evening, she just pulled them before I got a chance to finish the song. She enjoyed it so much and laughed a lot. If you give this a try, let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

How a One-Year-Old Can Help Around the House

Most toddlers love helping around the house. They’re still at the age when they find it fascinating and more interesting than playing with their toys.

But it’s important to keep in mind some things when involving them:
· doing chores has to be a cooperative and voluntary activity. Never try to bribe or punish a child for not wanting to do it;
· also, avoid putting pressure on your child by using praise: “Constant praise and encouragement usually have the opposite effect of what we intend. There is a fine line between encouragement and pressure for many children.” (Janet Lansbury);
· choose chores that you know your child can help with, to encourage their participation. You’ve probably observed your child playing and know what he/she can do. Choose tasks that are appropriate and bring everything to your kid’s level. Simplify tasks or ask them to help with a certain step in the process. If a certain task is too difficult, your child will get discouraged and his self-esteem will suffer.

At the moment, our 14-month-old helps us:
· unload the spoons from the dishwasher;
· wipe the table after eating or doing crafts;
· put her dirty clothes in her tiny laundry basket;
· take the clothes from the basket and put them in the washing machine;
· hang clothes, by handing them to me (sometimes even one at a time);
· do some light dusting, if she shows interest while I do it.

These drawers are very low, so she can reach and take her diaper and put dirty clothes in the basket.

We also encourage her independence by letting her:
· pour her drink (with help)
· brush her teeth (but we help a little while she helps us)
· brush her hair
· wash her face with a cotton pad, then wipe with her towel
· put cream on her face (with a bit of help, so she doesn’t take too much)
· choose what to play and which books to read
· choose (from two appropriate choices) what pants, top, gloves, hat to wear
· choose which diaper to wear.

I’m pretty sure that I forgot some things, but it’s getting late and I’m exhausted. I might get back to this post and add some more things.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

What You Can Do With a Few Rainbow Sound Blocks

We got some Rainbow Sound Blocks yesterday, and already E. has played with them more than she has played with some of her old toys. They’re a wonderful open-ended toy, and I’m sure they’ll be played with a lot in the future.

I’m thinking about making a light table, just so we can play with them on it. But for now, we played with them in the following ways:
  • we pretended that they are phones;
  • we turned the lights off, then made projections on the walls by placing the flashlight behind; 
  • we waved “hello!” with shadows; 
  • we played "follow the light";
  • then I showed her that if she places her hand closer, its shadow is bigger;
  • we used them as musical instruments – they have beads inside;
  • I built towers and she destroyed them – but then she helped make another one;
  • they’re also great for observing how colours combine – but that’s for later.
Do you have sound blocks? How do you use them?