Baby-Led Stories

Here is another verbal tip for both parents and caregivers: Ask your children, or the children you care for to tell you a story, sing you a song or “read” a book to you.  All of these things give them a free-range opportunity to use their language skills and stimulates imagination. An added plus is it gives parents and caregivers a verbal break, but stay alert!  Listen to what your kid is saying, and ask them questions about it when they are done, make them know you care and hear them.

Back to Pink, Kind of.

This is kind of a reblog from Bluemilk, I saw her post referencing the recent article/discussion Girls, Boys, Feminism, Toys: Deborah Siegel and Rebecca Hains Discuss.  The discussion between Deborah Siegal and Rebecca Hains, points to issues with the anti-pink phenomenon, and ways to educate children about media literacy.  

Rebecca: In all honesty, the argument that we need to stop (“or at least pause”) the war on pink didn’t even come off as a rhetorical device to me. I’m sad to say that it just came across as ill-informed. There isn’t a war on pink; there’s a thoughtful, measured argument that while pink isn’t inherently bad, it’s limiting the play worlds and imaginations of boys and girls alike. So “Who’s Afraid of the War on Pink” reads, to me and my colleagues, like a straw man argument. The authors were conjuring up a nonexistent epidemic of myopic thinking, instead of engaging with anyone’s actual writing on the subject of girl culture and the rise of pink.

Check out the rest of the discussion on Girl W/Pen
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Wise Words from Kitzinger

“Babies speak a language that needs to be learned.  And with each baby you need to start discovering this one’s special language.  It takes time.  Meanwhile there us confusion, and irritation that the baby’s messages are not clearer, and that your own efforts to understand are not appreciated.  You have read books about child care, but somehow the baby is not playing by the rules. Remember that, though you are trying your best, your baby has not read the same books.”- Sheila Kitzinger (The Year After Childbirth)

Llama Llama Time to Share: A+

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Llama Llama Time to Share by Anna Dewdney is a great book about sharing, a lesson and skill which is one of the hardest to teach and instill in children…and sometimes adults. The thing that I love about the book, and most of the Llama Llama collection is that it offers a lesson which can be easily identified by young children. Llama Llama Time to Share acknowledges the difficulties sharing can entail and the fun which is gained when sharing actually happens.

When the child I watch is having difficulty sharing I reference this book (we read it constantly per her request.)  She immidiately knows what I’m talking about and usually decides to do what Llama Llama would do. This book gets an A+ because the message is clear, relevant and worth learning.

Talking Back

images….I don’t mean the dreaded talk back you’ll soon get from your teenage kids.  I’m referring to the talk back I practice with babies and toddlers in order to stimulate language and social skills. I was recently asked by a mom what I recommend to influence unprompted responses from toddlers.  An example, of what I consider a prompted, pushed response would be:

Adult: “What color is the flower?….you know what it is, what is it?…..Please tell me what color the flower is.”

Versus:

unprompted: Adult: ” I like the colors of these flowers.” Child: “I like the pink one.”

Getting to this point, in my opinion happens with consistent talk back, from the adult, from the very beginning. Some parent’s find “talk back” annoying and an aspect of overparenting, but I think it’s a very useful tool in getting babies and toddlers to learn how to say words, and to show them we understand and care about what they have to say.  Hopefully this talk back leads them to feel socially valued and thus more willing to speak unprompted.

Questions:

When your child is learning to talk, make sure to create conversation and ask them questions. Try not to solely ask, what-animal-is-that-questions, ask them free-response questions about their day, where right and wrong don’t necessarily come into play.

Repeat:

When your baby/toddler is first learning how to talk, and or learning new words, repeat what he said back, this will show him a few things:  1. That you understood him. 2. That you care what he says. 3. That you are listening.

Repetition is a great way for children to learn new information. Repeating words and sentences back also insures that you understood what your child is saying, and is a chance for you to annunciate the words correctly for your child to hear and learn.

Toys Toys Toys

UnknownDo you depend too heavily on made for baby/toddler toys? It’s easy to use solely store-bought toys, especially when given to you for free at baby showers, but maybe it’s time to step back, and look in your house and outside for the stimulation your kids need.

You really don’t have to stock up on a ton of baby-deemed toys (other than books) to get your child’s interest, house-ware can be just as stimulating, if not more so.  From my many years of experience with infant-3 years I’ve found that they are most stimulated, and interested in real-world, purposeful objects around the house.  Bookshelves and the books in them become a mecca for defining fine motor skills, i.e., taking the books out and putting them back.

For infants and toddlers, gaining physical control of their bodies is a huge educational feat, from rolling over and reaching for objects, to fine motor-skills, like holding a crayon, so I try to make sure activities and toys influence them physically. Reaching for a stuffed animal or textured, colorful towel is good for their motor skills. As they get older, and more physically capable, putting objects inside each other serves a similar purpose.  You can buy blocked/stackable toys, but you can also use different sized tupperware or boxes to create the same effect.

What I look for in a toy or house-hold made toy is that it serves 1 of the 5 senses, touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight.  Most store bought toys easily include touch and sight, when hearing is involved the sounds emanating from said toy are usually arbitrary.  Music around your house would be much for influential, for tonal patterns, beats and rhythm, and, lets face it, far more enjoyable for the adults.  My point is, infants and toddlers need to be stimulated, consistently with objects, things and people that influence their 5 senses, and most of the time you can find these things in your house.

When we depend solely on store-bought toys we can easily forget about 2 senses which are typically excluded, smell and taste. It also becomes easy to assume that “educational” toys are doing the education, so we don’t have to. But this isn’t true, as parents and caregivers we need to consistently talk about what they are doing, seeing, touching, hearing, smelling and tasting.  It’s fun to think about all of the educational resources around us at all times that we, as adults take for granted, but will thoroughly intrigue and stimulate our babies.

Touch/physical:  Textured objects, this can be anything, cloth, wood, plants/flowers, rocks, paper, etc. When your baby starts to eat solids this is an amazing time for them to explore textures, and amazingly it includes all 5 senses! Hearing? Yes, if you consider the noise of squishing their food, or smacking a spoon against their plate, and adults talking about the food your baby is eating. Everything I listed can be easily found in house, or outside, i.e, plants, flowers, rocks.

Taste: Taste is something store-bought toys do not have (I don’t think….) As I said above, food is a great educational source, because it stimulates all senses.  When your baby is eating, talk about the food, what the food is, the texture and the taste.

Smell: Flowers, soap, food: Smell is also something typically excluded from store-bought toys, so we have to go in house or outside for these resources.

Hearing/Language: Music, books, drumming on objects in the house…really anything, toy or otherwise can stimulate language, all we have to do as adults is talk about what they are seeing, i.e., colors, animals, numbers, etc.

Sight: Everything!! You don’t need to buy colorful toys (you can, but you don’t need to) everything in your house and outside when coupled with some kind dialogue can stimulate sight awareness.

Some store-bought toys I do like: BOOKS!! Puzzles and blocks, and art supplies.

Examples of toys I find useless: Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes, Fisher-Price Go Baby Go! Poppity Pop Musical Dino,

Related articles

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Endorse Bad Parenting?

What’s wrong with this commercial? Just about everything. This commercial, in a nutshell, sums up a parenting style I fundamentally disagree with. The commercial implies that our children should not be taken seriously, that we should literally tune them out when they ask questions we are ill-prepared for, or simply too embarrassed to answer. This commercial says: use media distractions as a way to get out of parenting.

Why as a society would we think bad parenting is funny?

Follow Through.

mom-debateIt’s easy to come up with, and devise a parenting style within the confines of your home, it can be much harder to maintain that same style when confronted with the outside, judgmental world. 

It can be hard to follow through on your own parenting style, when others around you are collectively doing something else.  It’s hard when strangers look at you like you’re crazy for implementing some parenting technique, whether it’s enforcing a rule, or letting your child play on the playground with other kids while you’re on a bench watching.

At playgrounds I often have an inner, self-encouraging mantra running, telling myself not to jump into the sandbox, or pointlessly follow ‘my’ kid around on the actual playground. I have to do this because all around me I feel parents judging me for not following their lead of over-parenting (yes, I too judge their over-parenting.)  While I love, and will happily play with the girl I watch, I think that she should play at the playground with other kids, not with me.

The other day, while I was out with the girl I nanny, who is now 22-months, I encountered this stranger-judgment.  I had two choices, 1. stray from my “parenting style” so as not to be judged, or 2. Maintain my style, and possibly be wrongly judged for it.  I chose the latter. While we were walking she (we’ll call her Turtle) decided to set her water bottle on the ground, walk away from it and then demand that I pick it up. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Turtle, can you please pick up your water?

Turtle: No, you pick it up. I need you to pick it up.

Me: Turtle, I’m not going to pick it up.  If you don’t want to carry it, bring it to me and I’ll put it in the bag. But you need to pick it up.

At this moment a stranger glared at me and went to pick up the water bottle, I intercepted saying…

Me, to stranger:  No, thank you, but I want her to pick up the water bottle.

Stranger: [Disgusted face]

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Me:  Turtle, you can take your time, but we aren’t going to walk any further until you pick up your water.

2 minutes later….

Turtle picks up her water and brings it to me.

Me: Thank you.

Turtle: You’re welcome.

The moral of the story is, yes, it was hard for me to have this stranger judge me, knowing she probably thinks I’m a terrible, mean, evil caregiver, but I have a specific “parenting” style and so, to maintain consistency, I let the stranger judge me.  Plus, I know I’m not a mean, terrible of evil-caregiver, which helps.

Crying Babies and Screaming Adults

We’ve all been at playgroups when the inevitable screams of a parent/caregiver demanding their irritable-tantrum-raged toddler to “Stop! You’re being so bad! We’re going home!” resound over the screams of the toddler, demanding the question: Who’s having the tantrum, the child, or the adult?

The thing that makes, or breaks, a public tantrum is the parent/caregiver’s reaction to the crying child. Does the adult keep his/her composure, or, out of embarrassment and frustration, loose it as well?  The reason a crying child can be unbearable isn’t because of the child, it’s because of the screaming adult accompanying the child.  Screaming attempts to “Stop!” your child from being upset only fuels the fire, that is your screaming child.

Like adults, children have bad days; unlike adults they haven’t yet learned to control their emotions, leading them to display, publicly, just how upset they are with slight signs of frustration, or massive tantrums.  Sometimes a child can be calmed down with an easy fix of a clean diaper, meal, a nap or a calm conversation. Other times, there isn’t a ‘thing’ to be fixed. They’re just in a funk and there isn’t much a parent or caregiver can do to stop it. I’m not saying we should accept crankiness, nor am I saying we should praise our children when they aren’t fussy.  What I think is important is that we (adults) maintain our composure, even while our children are completely loosing it.

We can try to help them calm down, by figuring out if they are hungry, sleepy, or need a new diaper but after those things are checked off, there isn’t much we can do other than talk to them calmly and explain the situation at hand to them.

At the beginning of any given day I discuss with ‘my’ toddler what the day will entail, whether it’s a fun play-date or a not so-fun doctor appointment.  I believe, (as I’ve stated in other posts) that preparing our babies/toddlers for the days activities and involving them makes it less likely a tantrum will occur.

If a tantrum does occur in public I try not to leave right away, or at all.  I try to figure out if there is something I can do, by talking calmly and understandingly to the child. Giving the toddler time to adjust to the new environment and people is key.  She may just need 15 minutes to realize that she’s safe where she is.  Running out because she’s crying, or wont leave my side, will not teach her independence or patience, because I’m not allowing her time to adjust.

Most everyone can excuse and empathize with a screaming child; the same does not go for an angry, screaming adult.

If you’re out in public and your baby/toddler starts to scream or cry remain calm and remind yourself that everyone with kids has been here.  Try to figure out what’s upsetting your child, if there’s something you can do to make it better, do it, but if they’re just in a funk, leave them alone.  Talk to your child calmly and reassuringly. This will go a long way in calming both of you down and will relax the people around you.

I cannot count the times that saying something like “I understand how you’re feeling, take your time” or “I understand you’re upset right now, but we are around other people, so lets try to be a little quiet” has led to a calm child.  When I say these things it calms me down and it also works to calm down the toddler.

Children want to be acknowledged in their frustration, saying things like the above can completely turn a mood around.

So if talking to your child calmly and reassuringly works so well…(sometimes,) why don’t people use this tactic more? My guess is, people think it’s just too simple, we have it in our minds, our way of thinking, that we must talk them out of their frustration with negative reinforcement, “Stop!…We’re going home!…” when most of the time a calm and understanding tone will do the trick.

Leave when necessary, but don’t chastise your child for it (unless they are hitting, or pushing.) Use your judgment, but you don’t have to run out of a playgroup because your child is upset, give them some time to adjust to the new environment and people.

If you’re at a ceremony of some kind you should leave, know your audience.  If there are tons of kids, and it’s a kid event, stick around.  If you’re at an adult gathering, head outside for a bit until your child calms down.

Things you can do to avoid and calm public tantrums:

  • Prepare them for the day, talk about the new class, play-date or activity for the day.  If they know what’s coming and are excited, its less likely they’ll be overwhelmed upon arrival.
  • Try to figure out what’s wrong and help them if it’s something “fixable”.
  • Reassure them, e.g. “Everything is ok, we are going to play here for a bit and then we can leave.”
  • Be understanding, e.g. “I understand you’re frustrated…”

What’s Up Dogs?

I was recently asked by first time parents of a toddler how I, “deal with their [children’s] dog obsession?” I assumed (correctly) the question related to safety rather than the weaning off of dogs. Not all dogs love to be touched, poked and sat on by children.  So, here is what I do when that inevitable dog obsession takes over our little people.

As I’ve repeated in most of my posts, explain everything early, dealing with dog obsessions is no different.  Teach your kids early, meaning in the first few months of their life, how and how not to touch living things.

Before the obsession begins, I always show babies/toddlers how and how not to touch dogs, you can show this by using books, stuffed animals and real dogs.  I show babies to touch gently, by lightly stroking or patting an image, stuffed animal or real dog.  Most parents and caregivers have witnessed their baby/toddler smack, throw or be rough in some other way with stuffed animals.  I use these opportunities to correct, show and explain how “we touch animals.”

Like most things children learn behavior from watching the adults in their life and then copying that behavior themselves. Because I am cautious, I always approach the dog first. The steps involved are as follows:

  1. Ask the owner if the dog is okay with being petted and with small children.
  2. After a positive response from the owner I put my hand to the dogs nose, giving him time to give me his okay.
  3. I then pet the dog.
  4. After I say it’s okay, I tell her to repeat what she saw me do.

The toddler I watch knows how to approach a dog and how to pet the dog. She knows this from watching me and from practicing being gentle at home with her books and stuffed animals. She knows to ask me first (I assess by first asking the owner and then going to the dog myself), with my approval she knows to put her hand to the dogs nose and after a few “okay” sniffs she knows to, again, wait my approval and then go in for the nice gentle petting I’ve shown her.  She knows to do all of this from watching me and listening to my endless explanations of why some dogs don’t like to be touched, even gently.  And when a dog doesn’t want to be touched, or I say “No,” because the dog is barking at her stroller, she understands with abundant disappointment…that is, until the next dog appears.