Archive | August, 2012

Decisions, Decisions…

30 Aug

 

Freestyle is 2 years old now.

At this point, a lot of people start talking about “The Terrible Twos” : the point where your once sweet, easy-going baby has become a walking, talking, tantruming toddler who has very strong opinions and wants everyone to know exactly what they are– usually very loudly and when you’re in public!

Freestyle is no stranger to the tantrum. A couple of months ago, I ended up having to carry her from our neighbourhood park (about 2 blocks away), kicking and screaming, in the heat, while 6 months pregnant.

Parenthood is just so special. 😉

 

When I was reading Paula Polk Lillard’s Montessori from the Start, I paid especial attention to the chapter entitled “The Developing Will.” I am used to shutting down potential sulk-fests from older kids in the classroom and have become (mostly) imperious to tearful pleads from students, but what the heck do I do with my own baby?!

One thing that I remembered from Lillard’s book was that young babies (under 1 year), are so interested in exploring their senses and can be distracted, if they want an object that they shouldn’t have, you can quickly take it away and replace it and they would still be happy.

However, between twelve and eighteen months, children’s brains begin developing and they can now hold onto thoughts and remember the objects. They are developing their will, which is a good thing, apparently. 🙂 It’s more difficult now to distract them by substituting said object with another because they now remember it.

 

So, what do you do? The two strategies that are suggested are: Redirection and Choice.

 

Redirection

At this age, children’s language development is flourishing and using descriptive language will help redirect their thoughts to a new one. You can refocus your child’s attention to something else in the room using description. In the book, they used the class pet as an example because live animals are very interesting to children. Alas, we do not have any pets, so I’ve usually tried calling Freestyle’s attention to something she doesn’t normally look at in the room (e.g. a print that hangs in the corner of the room).

 

Choice

The second strategy is giving them choices. Specifically, two choices which have outcomes that are acceptable to the adult (you!). So, at dinner time you wouldn’t ask your child, “Do you want to eat dinner now?” because she could say “no” and that wouldn’t be an acceptable outcome. You could, however, say, “It is time for dinner. Do you want to wash your hands at the kitchen sink or the bathroom sink?”

For example, we’ve started to let Freestyle make choices on what she wants to wear in the mornings. Usually in the mornings, she likes to run around upstairs and will giggle and run away sometimes if you tell her to get dressed, so I do find it easier to get her to focus on the task at hand (getting dressed and ready for the day), by presenting her with two outfits to choose from. I’ve set them out the night before, based on the weather and what we’ll be doing that day, so both outfits are acceptable choices.

She loves being able to have this little bit of control. She is involved and is proud that she made a decision that directly (and immediately) affects her.

So far, I’m trying to keep to these two strategies, and on the whole, it does work. However, there are always going to be those times when you just have to ride out a tantrum and console yourself with a nice cold Greek yogurt popsicle (my current favourite snack!) in the kitchen while your little angel is screaming her head off and rolling around on the floor in the next room.

 

Any other advice for the so-called “Terrible Twos?”

 

And, as a bonus, here is something to watch if your child is biting. Enjoy!

 

The Sweeping Square

23 Aug

 

 

Like many toddlers, Freestyle likes to help do “grown up” things. In the kitchen, she can help with basic food prep and has begun helping me set the table by bringing the utensils and smaller plates/bowls to the table. Recently, Freestyle has started bringing her own plates and cups back to the counter by the sink after she’s finished eating all on her own! When she first did it, I admit I was a bit scared that she’d drop it (I was in the other room and found the plate and glass by the sink) but she’s doing well!

She also likes to wipe spills and sweep the kitchen floors and walls (though we’re working on that!). I am thinking of setting up a dish washing station for her soon…just have to figure the details out first.

For sweeping, originally I got her this little broom:

 

 

 

However, she likes using the broom we use too. It’s not too tall, so it sort of works for her. Since she enjoys using it, I want to encourage this helpful behaviour!

She can sweep with this broom if I am helping her, but recently I’ve been trying to get her to sweep on her own. To make it easier, I used some brightly-coloured tape and make a rectangle outline on the floor (I was going to make a square, but the area I chose ended with rectangles).

I’m showing her now how to sweep into the rectangle. Then I help her hold the dustbin while she sweeps the dirt into it.

It’s a slow start so far, but that’s what practice is for, right? 🙂

 

 

 

“These are my confessions…”

20 Aug

 

Dun, dun, duuun!

Sometimes I look at other parenting blogs and start to feel so…inferior. Everything seems so lovely and light and educational and healthy in their homes and it seems like their children’s days are filled to the brim with educational Montessori activities.

 

 

…a tangent…

This is why I quit facebook. I realized that I was spending so much time just clicking onto friends’ profiles and feeling so jealous and left out. Everyone looked better and like they were doing more exciting things in their lives than me. After awhile, I did realize that you can’t always trust people’s profiles since 99% of us will post flattering images and try to represent ourselves in the best light (I certainly did!).

So, I decided to take myself off to prevent these negative thoughts. I also was starting to feel odd sharing EVERYTHING online and didn’t like the idea that once it’s out there, it’s out there forever.

I am so happy with my decision.

Even now, whenever I email photos of Freestyle to friends and family, I always include the line:

Please do not post Freestyle’s photos online (facebook, etc.). Thank you!

Personally, I don’t like the idea of her image being seen by people I don’t know and again, being stored online forever. I also feel that she has a right to decide whether or not she wants her image splattered on the Internet, which is why I don’t post photos here of her face and use a nickname on this blog.

…okay, back to this confessional…

So, I was looking back at some of my older posts and didn’t want to be giving off the impression that we have this super-organized, super-healthy, super-organic, super-super Montessori household filled with teachable moments all the live long day, lest it gives the wrong impression of who I really am! That’s why I decided to be open and honest and write down some of the things that I’ve done as a parent that I’m not necessarily proud of and wouldn’t want/think to post here!

 

Here are my confessions (I’m going to try to list them without annoyingly trying to justify them all!):

 

  • This is a hard one…I’ve fed my baby poison McDonald’s. As much as I’d love to have Freestyle eat only a diet of whole organic homemade food, well, I have to be realistic as well. Biker and I try to avoid it (though there is one RIGHT next to where I live…darn them!) but do eat fast food once in awhile, and a couple of times we got breakfast there. I’ve fed Freestyle some of my Egg McMuffin, hash browns, and smoothie.
  • As much as I enjoyed co-sleeping (for the better part of the last year) and breastfeeding, I am also very happy that Freestyle now sleeps in her own bed in her own room and has self-weaned after being breastfed for about 22 months (err, with some gentle encouragement from me, I have to admit!). We really wanted this to happen well in advance for when the baby arrives so that she doesn’t associate getting kicked out of our bed and off the boob with the new baby!
  • Sometimes we don’t do anything productive/educational all day. On lazy days we just hang out at home. A couple afternoons found me laying on the couch reading and Freestyle playing beside me on her own. I think it’s also because it’s summer, so we’re mostly outside for the morning and then the afternoons we just hang out post-nap, pre-dinner prep. Once in awhile I’ll take her swimming in our condo pool. However, I am resolved to make a more formal plan for when she turns 3 next year, when I will prepare a (casual) routine and prepare a homeschool program for her (first year Casa).
  • I am happy with my decision to work part-time so that I can be at home with Freestyle, but sometimes I do miss getting dressed up (and by “dressed up” I mean wearing something other than a t-shirt or what Biker calls a muu-muu!) and going to work to be around other adults. There are days that feel so, so long but in the end, I am grateful for what I have, even though I sound like a whiny brat about it sometimes!
  • I have resorted to bribery on many an occasion. Basically, if Freestyle wants something (that I do find appropriate, not just anything!) but should be doing something else first, I will use that thing she wants as the carrot. Example: “If you want to play with the play dough, you need to put your blocks away first.” And yes…an extreme example: “Let’s get into the car NOW and I’ll give you a cookie once you are strapped in!” 🙂
  • As much as we try to limit Freestyle’s time in front of the TV/computer (One of the reasons we canceled our cable. The second reason was to save money!), there have been times when I’m on a deadline and it’s not a babysitting day and I’ve just worked on the computer with Freestyle on my lap while she watches a show/movie on the side of the screen. We’re to a point when she sees me on the computer, she assumes that she’ll be watching her new favourite, Winnie the Pooh. Uh oh.
  • There are times I just let her watch something on the computer while I just surfed or wrote a blog post. This I am going to make a conscious effort to stop though since it’s unnecessary. Err, starting tomorrow! (She’s on my lap right now because I am avoiding the piles of laundry that are awaiting me and uploading photos to send to my family!). Oops.

 

 

Whew, that was cathartic! Again, I’m not proud of them, but I also know they’re not the worse things in the world. BUT I do know that I should make more of an effort with them too…

Well, there’s no such thing as a Perfect Parent and I think great parents are made, not born. So there’s hope for me yet! That’s what I keep telling myself anyway. 🙂

 

 

If you have any “confessions,” feel free to comment here so that I don’t feel badly all by myself! 🙂

 

Easy DIY Threading Activity

16 Aug

 

 

[EDIT: Since I wrote this about a month ago, Freestyle has pretty much picked apart the white paper that I used to wrap the container! So keep that in mind if you decide to make this. In the link below, I believe she gives an idea of how to better cover the container.]

 

I’ve been meaning to make this for Freestyle for awhile now (months, actually!), but of course my lazy self kept procrastinating until I forgot about it! I think this would be a great activity for younger babies (around 1 year) to start on.

What reminded me was this post from how we montessori, a great blog I just stumbled upon.

 

It’s very simple to make:

All you need is a container with a plastic lid, something to poke holes into the lid, and about 10 stick-like objects (I had a huge box of coffee stir sticks from my own very DIY wedding leftover!).

  • You could also use larger wooden sticks/straws and a parmesan shaker (the ones with larger holes on the lid).
  • Or, you don’t even have to make a container– clean some pennies and use a piggy bank!

 

This is a Threading Activity, so Freestyle will be working on her concentration, hand-eye coordination, and pincer grip. It’s also a great activity that Freestyle can do independently, so a perfect time to bring it out is when I’m making dinner.

 

 

 

And, it’s portable! Just keep the sticks in the container and bring it with you if you know you’ll need to keep them busy.

 

Part 3: Bugs

9 Aug

On Roadkill, Bugs, & Other Critters: This is all about showing respect for all living things…all of them! Here are Parts 1 & 2.

 

Part 3: Bugs– Don’t kill them! 

 

Photo Credit

 

With insects that we found in the classroom, we made sure never to kill them, but carefully remove them outside, or, in my previous school, the kids could feed them to the pet lizards in the hallway.

At home, I want to make sure Freestyle learns the same thing: all living things are important and are to be respected. So when we have a rouge fly, spider, or bee(!) loose in the house…

 

How to Trap & Release Bugs in the Home:

1. Have a clear plastic cup and paper ready in your main living area.

2. When the insect lands, carefully cover it with the cup.

3. Slide the paper under the cup.

4. Carry the whole thing to the door/window and release the insect!

This is pretty simple and older kids can easily learn to do it themselves (and they LOVE to do it!). You’ll have gotten rid of the insect from your home humanely and your kids will see that even the tiniest creatures have a right to life.

Even worms. Sigh. 🙂

 

Bonus Critter Tip: If you have mice in the house, an easy and humane to get rid of them is to leave fresh mint leaves in the areas where they usually go. They don’t like the smell, apparently. It worked for us! Oh, and you end up with nice smelling cupboards!

 

Part 2: Transference (or, Don’t pass on your fears to your child!)

8 Aug

On Roadkill, Bugs, & Other Critters: This is all about showing respect for all living things…all of them! Read Part 1 here.

 

Part 2: Don’t kill the bugs!

 

One thing that they taught us during our teacher training was that as educators, we have to be very careful not to transfer our own feelings about certain topics to the children.

For example, if you did not enjoy math when you were in school (ahem), you have to be careful about the way you present math lessons (your tone of voice, choice of words, etc.) and even the way you talk about math. What you want to prevent is the child picking up (consciously or unconsciously) negative associations with that subject, affecting his/her own feelings towards it.

 

Photo Credit

 

This goes for your feelings about bugs and certain animals. One instructor encouraged us to get reptile as a class pet because you want to foster a love of all animals in children, not just the cute and fuzzy ones. This is especially true for girls, to whom the small, cute, fluffy animals are most directed.

We want to show children that all living things are important and deserve our care and respect, like people.

 

I was going to post a picture of worms but I. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It. So instead here is a nice photo of a wormhole!

Photo Credit

 

The hardest one for me was…worms.

I really, really, really do not like worms. They give me such a, how do you say…I-think-I-just-threw-up-a-little-in-my-mouth feeling when I see them. Shudder.

So a challenge for me was during recess when kids would come up to me and shove a worm into my face saying excitedly, “Look, look at this Mrs. MM!”

To which I replied (with careful consideration of my words and gag reflex suppression): “Janey, that’s great! Worms are such an important part of our ecosystem, aren’t they? Don’t forget to put it back in a safe place and wash your hands when you go in from recess!”

Janey: (Eagerly) “Do you want to pet him?”

Mrs. MM: (Inward shudder, outward smile) “No, thank you. I can’t right now because you should wash your hands before and after handling animals and I can’t leave the playground to wash my hands right now. Thank you for the offer.”

(Don’t get me started on the recess when five different kids came up to me to show me the dead mother worm and the hoard of baby worms surrounding it…I’m getting all squeamish just typing that!)

 

Part 1: On Roadkill

7 Aug

Exactly what you want to read about on a lovely summer’s day, right? 🙂

This is all about showing respect for all living things…all of them!

 

PART 1: Roadkill

 

Photo Credit

 

In university, I took a Native Lit course. A Native poet was invited to speak to us about her poetry about nature and though I don’t remember any of her poems, I do remember how much she loved and respected nature. I will never forget her telling us why she keeps a shovel and bags in the trunk of her car. Whenever she sees an animal that has been run over, she will stop and take the animal to the nearest wooded area, dig a grave, and bury it in order to return it to the earth.

Wow. Now that’s a nature lover right there!

The other day I saw the same animal (not sure what it was since it had been run over so many times…) on the road a couple of days after I first saw it. It’s just like those news reports you hear where the whole neighbourhood witnessed a beating or murder but no one called the police because they figured that someone else would do it (or that it wasn’t their problem).

Well, this is our problem. And I don’t want Freestyle to watch me ignore or turn a blind eye from an animal that was killed. While I’m not ready willing to pick it up and bury it (sorry, animals!), the least I can do is call Animal Control so that it can be removed as soon as possible. So I’ve programmed the number into my cell and the next time I see one of those poor animals, I will note the intersection and report it to Animal Control as soon as I stop the car. It will just take a minute of my day, but I think it will show Freestyle that all living creatures deserve that respect.

 

Toronto Animal Control: 416-338-PAWS (7297)

Mississauga Animal Control905-896-5858 – Option 3 (M-F 8-4) OR 905-615-3000 (After hours)

Markham Animal Control: 1-888-ONT-SPCA (668-7722) ext. 386.

 

 For other areas, just search “animal control & (your city).” Easy!