Scooters.

imagesWhy I don’t like scooters for children under 5. 

Scooters are fun.  For children under 5 the scooter should be a toy, an activity limited to the confines of an enclosed park, or pedestrian walkway (that isn’t filled with pedestrians.) The scooter should not be used as a means of transportation.  And while most parents wouldn’t admit they use the scooter to get their kid to scoot, just a little faster, that seems to be the only ‘logical’ motivation behind letting your 2 or 3-year-old speed 40 feet ahead of you, down heavily trafficked streets.

I get it 2 and 3-year-olds move slowly, and sometimes it can be frustrating, but the answer should not be, throwing them on a scooter, which, they do not have control over.

Sure, I have a small scar on the back of my heel from a scooter accident, but that’s not what drives my anti-scooter speech.  The real reasons I don’t think scooters are appropriate for children under 5 are listed below:

2-year-olds don’t stop when they see other babies walking directly ahead of them.  They don’t have the dexterity to swerve, gracefully out of the way, or negotiate their special surroundings, and most importantly they don’t fully understand the dangers of moving, motorized vehicles.  2-year-olds are just learning what the “stop” hand, and “go” walking person mean.  But, both symbols are still abstractions to them.  They simply know to stop or go when they see either symbol, and they often get the two mixed up, or forget to look without our cueing them. 2-year-olds don’t necessarily understand, that the “stop” and “go” symbols could be the thing protecting them from being hit by a car. And 2-year-olds do not understand what being hit by a car entails.

Solutions: If you want your 2-year-old to go faster put them on the scooter while you push them, but don’t let them manage it alone, while on heavily trafficked streets.

Eating, Right?

imagesFirst, lets get rid of the myth that babies and children won’t like vegetables. Okay, good.  Some tastes and textures might not immediately suit your child’s undeveloped palate, but with consistent attempts, they will, more often than not, learn to like and even love the bitterness of kale and the gooeyness of tomatoes’ innards (my personal feat 19 years ago.)

We shouldn’t assume or prepare for picky eaters.

Lets avoid saying things like “this is something new, but lets try it anyway.” And lets not stand by biting our nails, preparing for a food fight (not the fun kind.)  Our children’s reluctance to eat vegetables will arise from these verbal and physical cues, so sit back, relax and assume your kid will love veggies and fruit. And if you’re a person who doesn’t like broccoli or avocado, try hiding it for the sake of your child’s nutrition.

We shouldn’t give into our kids’ food related demands.

What we spend time making for our kid should be the food they eat.  I’m not saying they need to finish every last bite; to the contrary, they don’t even have to eat it, we simply should not make them mac and cheese after we’ve spent any amount of time creating a well-balanced meal.

If I provide a well-rounded meal of, quinoa and tofu, with sides of, spinach, tomatoes, cheese and blueberries that will be the only food provided at that given meal.  If the toddler demands a peanut butter sandwich I will not make it, and neither should you. I don’t refuse her cries for a peanut butter sandwich out of pure power of authority.  I refuse her demands for two reasons. First, because I spent time making her a meal that is nutritious. Second, because this is a teaching moment.  She will learn to like, and try, other foods if that is what she is given.  She will not learn to try, and like, other foods if I make her a peanut butter sandwich every time she asks for it.

That being said…

While I won’t make a whole new meal, I do ask the child I watch if she would like anything in particular, or I offer her a few options she can choose from. If she asks for something specific, I’ll often incorporate it into the meal, unless she wants ice cream and cupcakes.  Doing this makes her a part of the food preparation process, and allows her to make decisions, within certain guidelines.

Well-rounded meals should include:

Veggies: raw/steamed/roasted veggies. I recommend giving veggies plain, without butter or salt.  While we might think raw veggies taste plain, to our baby’s undeveloped/uncorrupted palate, raw veggies offer an array of exotic tastes and textures that don’t need to be enhanced.  Once they can appreciate and enjoy raw veggies then you can incorporate butter, oils, and sauces.

Fruits: (With no added sugars.)

Grains: Preferably whole grains such as, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa (actually a seed,) etc.

Protein: Meat, soy, beans, fish, (avocado!)

Making mealtime more enjoyable.

This task can be difficult for no reason other than our own impatience.  Prepare yourself for the time-consuming mess this process will be, but it can also be really fun for you and your baby! When you’re first introducing your baby to food (other than breast-milk/formula) there are a few fundamental things I recommend to help in creating a stress free environment.

Getting Started:

  1. 1.Don’t worry about the mess! It’s going to be messy, it’s just something we have to accept and once you do so, you can (calmly) let your baby explore and touch his food.  *This isn’t an all things goes scenario; Don’t let them: throw food, or put feet on the table.  As they get older table manners can become more extensive.
  2. Things you can do to limit some of the mess:  Strip your baby down to their diaper, this way you wont have to spend 20 minutes scrubbing out the inevitable food splatter.  I recommend getting rubber/wipe down bibs such as, baby bjorn bib.
  3. Try to sit down and eat with your baby.  Watching you eat will interest and motivate them to copy your eating habits. And yes, you too should eat some vegetables, if for no other reason than to set a good example.
  4. Give them time.  Make sure you have at least 40 minutes open to let them “try” to eat.  As adults we often eat too quickly, squeezing in the “annoying” yet necessary task. These are unhealthy habits for us, so lets not pass it onto our kids.  The process will be much more enjoyable if you can forget about the clock and let your baby explore and maybe eat the food.
  5. Don’t spoon-feed them!  Let your baby do it on his own, using his hands at first and eventually graduating to utensils. I got this tip from Baby-led Weaning and it proved to be very helpful in making the eating process more successful and enjoyable. When we spoon-feed our babies we do it at our pace, too fast for our little ones.  When we rush them, we also frustrate them and ourselves. Let them have a (literal) hands-on experience with their food.
  6. They might not eat, that’s okay. Don’t force them to eat, they might just look and touch their food the first few times.  Eventually they will want to try their food, so don’t panic if they don’t eat right away.  It’s a new experience for them.

Some things from Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

1. Course your child’s meals out: You can either use this method all the time or    specifically if you’re having trouble getting your toddler to try something new.  Whatever food your kid might be resisting (veggies, fruits, or other), try bringing this food out first, and alone. If that food is the only option your toddler will be much more likely to try it, after they eat all of it (or at least try it,) bring the next course out.

2. Cool it on snack time(s):  Stick with: Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner.  Not: Breakfast, Snack, Snack, Lunch, Snack, Dinner. I’ve always disliked the amount we (Americans) depend on snack-times to occupy and settle our children. Having multiple snack times a day, it seems to me, could create a breeding ground for future food dependency.

Why:  Besides the possibility of later food dependency, the immediate outcomes of an all day snacking habit can be that they won’t eat well during their actual mealtimes, because they aren’t hungry! They are also much more likely to act out during mealtime because they are not focused on their meal …because they are not hungry! If your kid isn’t focused or eating well at mealtimes, assess how much you’re letting them snack during the day, and what they are snacking on.

How to not snack in the U.S.: Druckerman recognizes that in the U.S. it is difficult to break the snacking routine, because your kids will constantly be around others who are snacking, and also sharing their food.  I’ve set out on outings without snacks, on purpose, so that the child I watch will be hungry and interested in eating during mealtime.  My plan often fails because the other parents and nannies we are out with have abundant, ready to share, snacks.  So, I’ve devised a system.  I bring light snacks such as, raisins, oranges, grapes and apples, broccoli.  These fruits and veggies obviously count as snacks, but they are not loaded with filling carbs, like most other snacks parents and nannies bring.

 

 

Cupcakes and Hoo-Hoos

My Body

The first few years of your child’s life, and of your being a parent, come with many exciting, scary, and even dreaded milestones, like the naming and talking about of your child’s genitalia.  As with a lot of my posts, this, too, is founded on what has become my “parenting style,” that of clear, honest, educated communication.

We are the first teachers our children will have.  While a lot of what they learn is through pure observation i.e., watching and hearing us, talk, walk, socialize, etc. We also coach them in these skills, we have mini “lessons” where we ask them questions or ask them to practice a new skill.  We even make up games and songs, because we are so eager for them to learn that, wheels go round and round and that, doors go open and shut.

One of the most popular teaching songs even delves, lightly so, into anatomy, Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes, head, shoulder, knees and toes, knees and toes, eyes and ears and a mouth and nose…. We happily sing this song while touching the corresponding body part, and relish when our little ones can do it all on their own. However, some parents and caregivers do not share the same enthusiasm for teaching their sons and daughters the names of their genitalia.

A lot of parents and caregivers spend little time explaining anything about their child’s genitalia to their child.  I rarely hear adults refer to their baby’s penis or vulva/vagina using the proper anatomical name.  Most commonly babies’ genitals are referred to as just, “down there,” some mystery location, referring to something below the waist: knees, shins, feet?! Some adults adopt some fictional, cutsie name for their baby’s genitalia, such as, cupcake, hoo-hoo, pee-pee, wee-wee, va-jay-jay.

I don’t think vagina is an ugly word.

Oprah Winfrey, unfortunately, helped coin the cutsie term va-jay-jay to replace the “obvious” ugliness “vagina” exudes. It became okay to make up “pretty” names for your vagina, all under the guise of a misrepresented feminism, i.e., a pseudo take back/reclaim your vagina movement, but really only further separates us from our sex and sexuality.  When grown men and women refuse to call their genitalia by the correct anatomical name, they do so out of embarrassment, a feeling I think most can agree should not surround our genitalia, a very important part of our bodies.

Why it can be hard to say P and V:

  • It’s hard for some parents and caregivers to say penis and vulva/vagina because we associate these parts with sex.
  • Our parent’s never said penis or vulva/vagina, so now we can’t say it either.
  • Baby talk: some parents/caregivers have a hard time talking in anything other than baby talk, so knees could become kneesy-weesies without a moments thought.
  • Adults are uncomfortable talking about their own genitalia by the correct names.
  • *Some people think penis and vagina are “adult words.”

*While searching for some examples of cutsie names for genitalia I came upon a web conversation on the site, JustMommies entitled, “G-rated names for penis, vagina, etc.”  Similarly, I searched “body parts Kids” and while there were many diagrams, none of those diagrams included genitalia.  Apparently kids don’t have penises or vaginas.  It seems safe to say we have an overarching problem with how we talk, or rather don’t talk about our genitalia.  The words Penis and vagina do not need a G-rated synonym because they are not bad words. Penis and vagina are anatomical names, just like elbow or collarbone.

Parents’ and caregivers’ inability to say penis and vulva/vagina when referring to their child’s genitalia bothers me beyond the obvious, which is simply that of embarrassment. I believe that at such a crucial learning stage we should be teaching them the correct names for things, in general. Just like we don’t want our kids to use slang or mispronounce words, we shouldn’t want them to use slang for their genitalia. Our jobs as parents and caregivers should be to present them with correct information. If they decide to change the name of their penis or vulva/vagina to something else, that’s fine. But I believe they should be presented with correct anatomical names for these reasons:

Why we shouldn’t make up cutsie names for P and V:

  • Miscommunication:  If you call your daughter’s vulva/vagina a cupcake, she will face confusion when someone offers her a cupcake.
  • Miscommunication: Others will not know what she means when she says “My La-La hurts.”

Why we should say penis and vulva/vagina:

  • Clear communication: Every adult knows what a penis is.
  • Clear communication: Every adult knows what a vulva/vagina is, right?! Vulva refers to the outer genitalia, while, vagina refers to the inner orifice.

I believe, strongly that having an open, and clear line of communication in regards to our bodies is key in creating a well-informed, inquisitive child. A child, who will know how to talk about their bodies without embarrassment, is a child who will also know their body’s limitations. They will be able, later in life, when they hit sexual maturity to make informed decisions, based on those early years of clear and open conversations about their body.

Rest Easy:

You can properly identify your child’s genitalia without sexualizing them. The reality you can take comfort in, is that your babies genitals are not something sexual, and wont be until puberty or after. Even if your baby is touching his/her penis or vagina, they are not doing so out of sexual curiosity.  They are touching themselves out of pure and innocent, A-sexual curiosity, so name those parts the way you do when your baby pulls on their ear and you say “that’s your ear!”

Teaching Moment:

Because we want out kids to learn body parts, we should also acknowledge and help them identify their genitalia and anus.  These areas will gain a lot of interest from your child, especially during potty training, so get comfortable identifying and saying the names.

  • When changing the diaper, simply get comfortable saying something like, “Oh, don’t touch your penis right now, there’s poop on it.”

 

Ear Safety

UnknownParents and nannies have different methods of occupying an upset baby.  Some talk to them, sing to them, or ask them to practice some new skill. (My personal favorite.) And others simply put earbuds (headphones) in their little ones ears, to keep them silent, occupied and…. possible deaf.

Years ago, I had to explain to a first time mother not to put q-tips in her infant’s ear. One year ago, I saw an infant, who couldn’t have been more than 3 weeks old at a blaring concert.  And now, with the accessibility and abundance of smart phones, I see babies listening to music via the mini-speakers shoved in their ears daily.

Parents and nannies seem prepared for various safety issues via experience, books, doctor’s advice, etc., but ear safety has proved to be widely overlooked.  The instances above have been replicated, especially the q-tip example, by literally all of my employers. It’s not that they don’t care, ear safety just isn’t thought about the same as real, possible cause-of-death scenarios, such as, drowning, falling or chocking.

If you look around any train, or on the street you will likely see adults and teens with earbuds in, listening so loudly to music you yourself, ten feet away, can make out the lyrics to _____ . This is our music and sound culture, i.e. loud is better, so of course parents and caregivers forget their child’s ear sensitivity, we disregard our own daily.

Why it’s important:

Ears are sensitive and incredibly important, not only for hearing and speech, but motor functions as well, like balance.  For infants, toddlers and kids the ear is at a much higher risk of damage because it has just developed, like the rest of their bodies and minds.  When we put too-small objects, such as q-tips into babies ears (and our own) we risk damaging the inner ear, which could cause hearing, speech, and motor function damage.  The same goes for too-loud noises, such as music from speakers or headphones/earbuds.  Setting the volume low does not necessarily insure that it will stay low, especially with our phone savvy babies.

Things not to do:

  • Don’t put music/TV up too loud around babies.
  • Don’t put earbuds in your baby’s ears or any headphones for that matter.  The volume may adjust and become much too loud.
  • Don’t let your baby put her/his fingers in their ears.
  • Don’t put q-tips in your baby’s ear.

Cleaning your baby’s Ears:

If you want to clean your baby’s ear, simply use a washcloth or tissue, and lightly clean the outer part of the ear.