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?

Monday, 6 January 2020

What's on Her Shelf at 13 Months

At almost 14 months, E. moves a lot…she rarely has time to sit still and play with the toys she has on her shelf. She’d rather climb the Pikler triangle, slide, or ride her bike. But in the mornings, we spend a bit more time in her room. This is what she has on the shelf:

Old Mac Donald basket and poster – we have these Schleich farm animals and we’ve been using them for lots of activities. E. loves Old MacDonald, so I made this printable with photos of her toys. I printed it out and laminated it. I think that later, when she’ll be ready to match the toys with the pictures herself, I’ll cut them into flashcards.

DIY posting activity with wooden balls (Grimm’s) – I just covered a box of Pringles with construction paper and cut a hole in the lid. She loves repeating this over and over. The activity teaches them about object permanence and improves their hand-eye coordination.

A tinkering basket (not sure if I should call it that, but eh, it’s too late to think of a better name) – it’s a basket with containers with lids, plastic bottles, wooden bowls, and objects that fit in them. She loves unscrewing the lids, but still needs a bit of help with that. I usually leave them loose.

Sensory blocks for stacking

Musical instruments

Wooden puzzle with shapes – I’ve also added some stickers of animals under the shapes.

DIY coin box – just a box with a hole and some coins that fit in it. Easy to make and it’s one of her favourite toys.

Ring stacker – she has recently started showing more interest in the ring stacker and her skills and precision have improved a lot since two months ago.

Race car ramp – this is a toy that she plays with daily.

Vehicles – she loves showing me how the plane flies and makes a cute sound.

A book about the colour green and a sensory basket with green objects. We also had a frog and a crocodile, but we gave them a bath.

Body parts and feelings books – she’s started to be interested in naming body parts and emotions, pointing at them, singing about them. So these are some books that go with these themes.

I keep her art and crafts supplies in a large box and place some in a basket on her weaning table. Sometimes it’s a crayon and paper, other times playdoh and stamps, just some things that she can play with. I’ll try to post some photos of what she has been using. She still needs to be closely supervised with these, that’s why they’re not on her shelf all the time.

What are your kids' favourite toys?

Friday, 8 November 2019

Making Mealtimes Relaxing and Enjoyable

Mealtimes can be stressful for some parents. It can be frustrating to spend an hour in the kitchen cooking, only to watch your baby throw the food on the floor or paint the table with it five minutes later. I've had some hectic days myself. I can't solve these problems for you, but here are some things that helped us. 

The most important piece of advice: try not to stress about it. Babies and children sense when you are tense, nervous, angry, and they test limits in these situations. They need to see calm, respectful parents, who can handle anything that's coming their way. In the first few months, babies have the occasion to explore and experiment with food, without having to eat that much - because they're still breastfeeding or on formula. So this is the time to let them explore and get interested in food, while you are observing.

The second piece of advice has to do with WHEN you serve a meal. Make a clear routine around snacks and main meals. Find the best time for your child to eat, and try to follow the same sequence of events that leads to that. For example, every morning when my daughter wakes up, we read a book, she breastfeeds, then I change her diaper, wash her face, she brushes her teeth, then go get some groceries, then have breakfast. Routines add predictability and children feel safe when they can anticipate what will happen next. Also, routines make it easier to learn the rules around mealtimes.

The third piece of advice is about WHERE your child eats. It's important to always eat at the table, because it creates healthy eating habits, your child is more focused on eating (no toys around), and it is safer when it comes to choking. Whether you choose a weaning table (a small table and chair, so that your child can get in and out independently - I'll write a separate post about our weaning table soon) or use the family table and a feeding chair, it's up to you, your needs and your baby's preferences. We have both - we use the weaning table for snack time, and the high chair for main meals. That way, I can eat with her. While she's having her snack, I sit on a cushion next to her weaning table.

E's weaning table (IKEA shortened Lack and a cube chair)
The fourth piece of advice is about HOW to feed your baby. I wanted to start with Baby Led Weaning, but it seemed that my daughter had other plans. I got a bit scared when she gagged on a tiny piece of chicken breast, so I decided to try a combination of purees and BLW. You should follow your child, then choose what style of feeding fits her - spoon feeding, BLW, purees, every child is unique and what might go for one, might not for another. What I really like about BLW is that it promotes healthy eating habits - babies are capable human beings, who can decide when they've had enough to eat. From the beginning, I let her use her hands whenever she wanted to and it was possible, and when we had soup or other liquids, I pre-loaded the spoon for her, but let her take it to her mouth. That way, she was in control.

“our baby feels respected and valued when she is asked to actively participate in a feeding experience with us rather than just being fed” (Excerpt From Elevating Child Care: A Guide To Respectful Parenting - Janet Lansbury)

This brings me to the question: "HOW MUCH to feed your baby?". Babies don't need us to shove a spoon in their mouths or bribe them to eat. They need to be in control of how much they eat. What works best for us is that we put a small portion for her, but have more in the pot. Once she has finished, we give her more. That way, she doesn't feel pressured to empty her plate or overwhelmed by the amount of food. We can consider ourselves lucky - at least at the moment, she eats extremely well and she always wants more.

“We want to trust our babies to be in charge of their appetites, to indicate a desire for food by opening their mouths when we present them with a bite or spoonful. “Here comes the airplane” or “Just one more bite” coaxing can turn feeding into something our babies do to please us. It can encourage overeating”. (Excerpt From Elevating Child Care: A Guide To Respectful Parenting - Janet Lansbury)

One last thing. This can be tough, especially if you have more than one child, work from home, or just have a lot of work in general. Try to be present and engaged during mealtimes. These moments can help you create a connection with your child.

I hope this blog post doesn't sound condescending. It's not my intention. And I'm definitely not trying to say that the way I feed my child is the best. These are just some things that probably helped in our situation, but it might be just that our daughter loves eating and it's not something we did that helped.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Praise, Acknowledgement, and Inner Motivation

I always strive to improve my teaching practice, especially my interaction with the children I teach. Creating a bond, connecting with them, will ensure that what I teach gets through to them. Giving feedback is one aspect that is truly important when it comes to teaching (or parenting).

You probably heard that “good job!” has a bad reputation and here’s why: it’s too general (the child might not understand what exactly he is praised for), it doesn’t necessarily mean that the adult actually paid attention to what the child was doing (sometimes it’s a filler, and it’s not genuine), it’s vague, it praises the end result, not the process, and it gets a child dependent on external praise, if used too often. Actually, the former is why we should always use acknowledgement, rather that praise, when we give feedback. Children should be able to do things without expecting praise, stickers, compliments in return – intrinsic motivation will help them become better in everything they do in the future.

An acknowledgment describes a certain behavior in an objective manner, without judgment: “Your grades have gone up. How do you feel?”, or “You’ve been concentrating on the game for quite some time.”. The tone used is usually flat. Praise, on the other hand, takes the attention off the child, and puts the spotlight on the adult: “I love how you …!”, “I’m proud of you for…!”. This can also put a lot of stress on a child to perform or do certain things the way the adults want him to.

Here are some things you should keep in mind:
  • Children need to be treated with respect and they will cooperate. They don’t need bribes to do certain things. Put it this way – if there’s something you wouldn’t say to an adult, don’t say it to a child either. Try to be genuine in the things you say to a child, don’t just pay compliments for the sake of it: children feel when you’re being fake.
  • Some of you might think that praise actually helps children stay motivated while learning a new skill. But they will learn to crawl, walk, talk, write, etc. without it. Just trust them and their capabilities, and your emotional support will be enough.
  • When interacting with children, you should pay close attention to the way you think about yourself. Model a growth mindset (the belief that you can become better at something by working hard on it), perseverance, patience, and other positive traits, and they will see it.
  • Try not to interrupt your child’s concentration to acknowledge what he’s doing. Wait for the child to make eye contact or stop what he was doing, then say what you want.
  • Encourage their effort and focus on the process, not the end result.
Sure, it’s difficult to refrain from praising your kids, but acknowledgement is a matter of practice/habit. But don’t worry, you won’t damage your children by saying “good job!” every now and then.

Photo by Porapak

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Places to Go with Your Baby

Now that E. is almost a year old, she seems to be craving interaction and loves exploring new places. So, I’ve made a list of places we’ve enjoyed visiting, hopefully for some inspiration.

playgrounds: for swinging and sliding;
nature walks on the beach, nearby meadow, or through the forest;
trip to the farmer’s market;
going to the airport to watch the planes;
watch cars from the bridge;
taking trips to the railway station to watch the trains;
visiting a fabric store, to touch different materials, ribbons, curtains, drapes (for this she’s in the front-facing carrier);
observing a construction site;
trip to the zoo;
feeding the ducks and geese on the beach/pond;
watching the ferryboats in the harbor;
having a picnic in the park;
botanical garden;
animal farm;

swimming pool;
pet store;
supermarket trips – to talk about fruits, veggies, flowers, and other products;
museums (they might also have events organized for babies and very young children, such as painting sessions, sensory play group sessions, etc.);
music classes at the local library;
story time at the library (read by someone else or just me);
play groups and playdates;
indoor playgrounds (most malls where we live have wonderful playgrounds, with slides, toys, climbing frames, etc.)

I’m sure that I forgot some places we sometimes visit. What are your favourite things to do with your baby?

Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels