Archive | November, 2012

Bringing Up Be Be & Montessori (not a review)

29 Nov

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Recently, I was at the library and on the way out, I passed the “New Non-Fiction” display table and saw this book. I decided to check it out and see what it was all about.

I heard about Bringing Up Be Be: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman when it first came out earlier this year. I do remember that some people who reviewed the book were not too impressed with the author’s research and the fact (that the author also acknowledges) that this “French parenting” is based solely on her observations on the upper middle class families with whom she socialized. So when I mention French parenting or French parents here, I am referring to the families that the author wrote about in the book. Obviously I have no idea if all parents in France follow this parenting philosophy!

Bringing Up Be Be was an interesting read. While I’ve never thought there is a be-all and end-all parenting style, there were definitely some parts that I found a bit off or didn’t agree with (e.g. limited breastfeeding because it is not attractive, keeping the husband out of the birth room in order to keep the woman’s “mystery” alive…ha. Ha. HA.) and I found that some of “what the French do” is pretty much common sense– something we know we should do, but the people described in this book actually do it!

These are the parts of “French parenting” from the book that I did agree with and like, some of which I found aligns somewhat with the Montessori philosophy. (I am writing this a few weeks after I’ve finished and returned the book, so I can’t promise that my memory of the book is 100%!).

 

1. Bonjour, Au revoir!

The author observed that, manners-wise, Americans focus mainly on teaching their children to say “thank you” and “sorry,” (I totally did this!) while French parents also emphasize saying”hello” and “good-bye” to adults. This is so children become more aware of others (and that they are not the centre of the universe) and that they need to acknowledge the presence of these other people. It is also a simple way to acknowledge their presence and a basic gesture of respect.

I found this similar to the routine set in a Montessori classroom. Upon entering the classroom each morning, each student greets her teacher(s) with a handshake, look her in the eyes and says, “Good morning, Mrs. MM.” At dismissal, the student will again shake her teacher’s hand and say goodbye.

This exchange is basic Grace and Courtesy— the child practices greeting others, making conversation (eye contact, appropriate body language, carrying on a conversation– all important life skills!), and it is a nice way to cap off the day.

(There is also a practical classroom reason for this: by greeting the teacher, the teacher can take attendance and check in with each student individually.  It is also an extra mental reminder of who arrived/left.)

I liked this concept a lot. I agree with the thinking behind it and started consciously reminding Freestyle to greet and say goodbye to everyone (not just adults).

Sidenote: I’m not sure if I ever mentioned this before, but one thing I will never make Freestyle do is hug/kiss someone when greeting/saying goodbye. I do not believe that children (or anyone, really) should be coerced to hug/kiss someone if they do not want to do it (even relatives). Kids should never feel obligated to submit to physical touching if they don’t want to, right? Also, I’ve read that if a child is abused, most likely it is by someone he or she knows or trusts. So, when we are leaving, I will usually ask Freestyle, “It’s time to say goodbye! Do you want to hug So-and-So?” Usually she does, but on those rare occasions when she refuses, I’ll just say loudly and firmly (so that that person overhears and hopefully understands), “That’s okay, you don’t have to hug anyone, but you do need to say ‘goodbye’ to her.”

 

2. Le Cadre

En Francais, cadre means “frame.” The author wrote that French parents are stricter than Americans about limiting the amount of freedom that their children have, but within that “frame” of freedom they can do what they like. One example (that I vaguely remember) is that one parent said that for bedtime, they would say goodnight to their child and leave the room. The child does not have to go to sleep immediately, but must remain in the room doing something quietly (read, play, etc.). Eventually, they would find the child has fallen asleep on his own.

In Montessori schools (and homes!), children are given a certain amount of freedom but are expected to exhibit a corresponding amount of responsibility (appropriate for his or her age and level of development).

The concept of freedom with responsibility makes sense, right? It extends to the entire school experience for the Montessori child.

For example, in the classroom, there are no assigned seats. Children work at tables or on a mat on the floor. So, in this situation, here are the child’s freedoms and responsibilities:

Freedoms:

  • He can choose where to sit.
  • He can choose to work alone or with a friend or two.

Responsibilities:

  • He will choose an appropriate place to work (with enough space for the materials, not sitting at an over-crowded table, etc.).
  • If he chooses someone to work with, he will choose someone who will not distract him from completing his work.
  • He will not distract others from doing their work.

If the child does not uphold these responsibilities and does not make better choices after a reminder or two from the teacher, then the teacher may have to limit his freedom by either asking him to choose another place to sit or taking away the privilege of this choice. He may also not be able to work with that particular partner if they are not remaining focused on the task.

The child can always earn back these freedoms by demonstrating that he is able to be responsible to handle them.

This “cadre” works for children because they need (and want) limits. You always hear of kids “testing the limits” with their parent, caregivers, or teachers. This is because she wants needs to know what the limit is– if she has unlimited freedom, she will not feel safe.

Montessori believed that young children (first three years of life) have a strong Sense of Order— they are learning about the world through their senses and are trying to make sense of all this information by creating order. Children want to know the place and function of everything in their environment. This Sense or Order gives them security and allows them to continue developing.

A sense of security…

  • Allows the child to become confident in making choices (since they know where the boundaries are).
  • Promotes independence and responsibility (because they are trusted to make those choices, as long as they stay within the boundaries).
  • This trust that the adult gives them shows a respect for the child as a person, building on their self-confidence.

(This all reminds me of OLG‘s motto: “Know Your Limit, Play Within It!” Ha ha!)

 

 

3. Independent Play

In the book, the author observes an American parent following his child around the playground, going up the ladder, down the slide, on the swings, etc. All the while, the parent is keeping up a continuous narration of the child’s every action (“Now you are going up the stairs! Good job! Now you are going down the slide, whee!”).

French parents, on the other hand, would more likely be found on the park bench, catching up on e-mails or just enjoying a coffee while their child plays independently.

I’m of two minds on this issue. On one hand, I do agree that playing independently is an important skill for every child to have. I’m at home with Freestyle and while I love being with her, we can’t go around attached to the hip all day! So when I am making dinner, I’m happy when she can entertain herself! During the day, if I see her happily playing by herself at home, I will usually leave her to it and do my own thing until she wants my attention again.

However, I do think that it is important for bonding, language development, and general awareness to talk to (and when she learns to speak, talk with) your child during play. Doctors, speech-langauge specialists, early childhood educators, etc. here in Canada strongly encourage parents to do the whole narration thing, especially with babies. I think there’s a balance. It’s important to talk to your child and call her attention to different things in her environment while giving her the language. BUT there is such a thing as going overboard with this, as illustrated with the non-stop (and one-way) chatter of the playground parent above! Just being quiet together is valuable too– it’s a time to rest, reflect, and allow each other time to have your own thoughts.

Also, while I do like that sometimes Freestyle will play independently while I can do something else, there are many times when she wants to play with me and of course I do so unless I am doing something else that is more urgent (see #5 below). And, sometimes I want to play with her which I think that it’s healthy and fun for both of us! I can model positive social behaviours (sharing, patience, Grace and Courtesy, etc.) while relaxing and just enjoying my daughter. 🙂

 

4. National Meal Plan

A love quiche!

 

French parents conform to what the author termed “National Meal Plan.” That is, their children ate at certain times of the day without snacking in between. The times were:

Morning = Breakfast

Noon = Lunch

4:00PM = Snack

8:00PM = Dinner

 

 

Without fail, all the parents the author spoke with naturally followed this “meal plan.” It was about finding the balance of the child’s rhythm and that of the parents and why French children will eat their food at mealtimes (they aren’t full from snacking all day). Even babies’ feedings would slowly but surely conform to the National Meal Plan. The author compared this with American children who seemed to snack more often during the day.

I do like the idea of older children (and me too!) having set mealtimes with limited snacking (sorry, grazers!). I noticed that I would let Freestyle have a snack between breakfast and lunch (second breakfast, hobbit-style!) if she asked, usually around 10:00AM. Whenever we went to playdates there would always be a spread set out by the generous hostess and most of the kids would descend on the snack table like vultures who hadn’t eaten for days (and yep, Freestyle would be right in the middle of the pack!).

After reading this book, I decided to cut out the morning snack. If she asks, I just tell her that we will be having lunch soon. If she keeps asking, I’ll direct her attention to something else until then. Now she rarely asks for a “second breakfast” snack.

I’ve kept the afternoon snack (usually around 4:00, but of course I don’t stick strictly to that time!), which is nice because who doesn’t enjoy an after school/work snack? 🙂

 

Afternoon snack is served!

 

I can’t really tell if Freestyle eats more at meals now because she’s a good eater, as they say. If she doesn’t eat a lot at one meal, I know she’ll just make it up at the next!

I also like the emphasis on eating healthy whole foods from the time they are young, working with the belief that kids do eat vegetables and other healthy fare (as opposed to assuming they won’t like it), and trying foods that are initially rejected again and again in different ways.

 

5. “Le Pause”

Another thing French parents do is “Le Pause.” Instead of immediately picking up their crying baby or tending to their kid’s requests, they will wait for a moment or two. This “pause” is to teach patience so that their children do not expect immediate gratification.

I do believe that immediate gratification is a big problem in our culture (no points for that observation), so I do agree with the idea of having the child wait for non-urgent matters (for an appropriate amount of time for her age, of course).

Reminds me of the Marshmallow Test. A marshmallow is put in front of a child. The adult tells them that he can eat the marshmallow now or, if he can hold off until she comes back, he will get a second marshmallow. If the child can wait, the studies show that that child will be more successful in life. He has the inner self-discipline to wait and the ability to distract himself during the waiting period.

 

 

I’m tempted to try this with Freestyle! 🙂 Maybe when she’s a bit older…

 

Personally, I subscribe to the view that babies cannot be spoiled by being picked up. If Real Baby is screaming, then yes, I will immediately pick her up or do whatever it is that needs to be done to make her comfortable. However, if she is just fussing, I will wait a moment to see if she’ll settle herself. Right now that moment is usually a couple of minutes, but I will let it stretch out longer when she is older.

For Freestyle, I (hope) I don’t immediately give into her wants. I’ve been using the phrase “Please wait” with her lately. She seems to understand this. With Real Baby in the picture now, she will definitely have to learn to wait her turn now!

Have you read Bringing Up Be Be? What did you think of it? Are there any other parenting books that you feel are worth a read?

 

 

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Water Pouring Exercise

22 Nov

Water Pouring Exercise for Toddlers 

Age: Approx. 15 months + . As always, all children are different, so you can observe your child’s readiness. Initially, I introduced pouring to Freestyle using dry items when she was 20 months.

Purpose: This is a Practical Life exercise. The child is developing hand-eye coordination, concentration, practicing aiming for a target, and fine motor skills. If there are spills, she learns to clean up after herself. Once she is able to control her movements and pour accurately, she can pour her own water during meal and snack time, another step towards independence! She can also offer to pour a drink for others (Grace  & Courtesy).

 

Materials:

2 small pitchers, ideally they will be identical

(I used two creamers that I found these two creamers at a thrift store…$0.99 each! They had shelves and shelves of old tea sets and other items that could be used for Practical Life activities)

Water

Small cloth or sponge to wipe up spills

Tray

 

What to do:

1. Have your child carry the tray with all the materials to a table. She will sit in front of the tray and you should sit to her right if you are right-handed, to her left if you are left-handed.

2. Fill the pitcher on the right with a small amount of water. Demonstrate how to carefully pour the water from the right pitcher to the left, and then back again (more details in step 3).

3. Show her how to wrap the fingers of her right hand around the handle (her pointer and middle finger will be wrapped around the handle while her thumb rests on top of it). Have her support the other side of the pitcher with the pointer and middle fingers of her left hand.

4. Allow her to carefully pour the water from one pitcher to the next, and then back again.

5. If there is a spill, that’s okay! It’s just an opportunity for your child to learn that she will need to take more care next time and also to take responsibility in cleaning up after herself.

6. Let her repeat as many times as she’d like– which will probably be a lot!

 

Control of Error: No water will be spilled.

Vocabulary: pour/pouring, pitcher, handle, spout. Freestyle loved the spout and kept saying, “Spou…water come from!” 🙂

 

Freestyle really enjoyed this activity but during our second try she wasn’t able to control her excitement and was lifting up the pitcher in the air with one hand and cheering after she finished pouring. After I tried to gently remind her that we needed to be careful, showed her again how to hold the pitcher, and giving her a fair warning about what the natural consequence of this behaviour would be, I ended up having to stop the activity and take it away. While I’m glad she likes doing it, she will have to learn that there is an acceptable way to handle the pitcher and that wasn’t it! Of course she was very upset but…them’s the breaks, kid.

 

Go further:

  • When your child is ready, she can start pouring her own water from a small pitcher into a glass for snack time and meals! Later, she can do this for the rest of the family– imagine how proud your child will be to be able to do such an important job!

 

Pregnant Chicken

17 Nov

This is us. Sort of. 🙂

 

Pregnant Chicken is a hilarious blog that I came across when I was pregnant with Freestyle. She writes about all things pregnancy and it’s pretty informative while being very, very funny at the same time.

The first time I read this post, I laughed so hard that I may have peed a little (might I remind you that I was pregnant at the time, so…yeah)!

A recent post, “Why You’re Never Failing as a Mother,” is BRILLIANT. Go read it if when you need to make yourself feel better.

 

Happy weekend!

 

10 Signs of My Premature Aging

15 Nov
Ambro

Photo Credit

 

1. Out of the “Top Ten Downloaded Songs of the Week,” I recognize maybe one song and two of the groups.

2. I’ve pushed my glasses onto my head to put on some lotion. When I was finished 10 seconds later, I, in all honesty, asked out loud, “Where are my glasses?

3. I’ve started to increase the text size on websites. I just don’t want to be squinting, okay?! I don’t want to get crow’s feet- I have enough to worry about!

4. The other day, I looked at two teenage girls in short skirts on a windy day and thought in all seriousness, “They should be wearing jackets.”

5. The only text/Internet acronyms (I don’t even know if there’s a proper term for those!) I know are LOL, OMG, and WTF. Though I never actually use any of them when I text because it feels too weird. Instead of LOL I will actually type out “Ha ha” instead.

6. Me, a few years ago almost 10 years ago (Wait, what?! 10 years? How’d that happen?!):

When I was in university, an older friend called me from work one morning. We were talking when suddenly my alarm went off.

Friend: “What is that noise?”

MM: “Oh, just my alarm clock. Let me just turn it off. There.”

Friend: “…”

MM: “Um, hello?”

Friend: “It’s eleven o’clock. You set your alarm for…eleven o’clock?!”

MM: “…I didn’t want to sleep in?”

Me, today:

Before Real Baby* was born, my super fantastic sisters took me for a mini overnight trip.** We were excited because we scored an extra late check-out time of 2:00PM. One of my sisters also has kids and she was also really looking forward to sleeping in that weekend. So, what happened? She wakes up at 6:00AM and can’t get back to sleep. Ends up watching TV on the lowest volume (we were sharing a hotel room) until we woke up. Me? Oh, I did so much better. I “slept in” until…7:00AM.

7. I was reading the newspaper (I guess that may be another sign right there– I had a physical copy of the paper in my hands!) and saw an ad for a museum offering $20 tickets for an exhibit for people 25 years and under. I got so excited and was starting to tell Biker about it and how I could get tickets for us both (he’s a couple years older) and maybe we should invite Friends A and B, they’d love it too, then…oh, wait, I’m…over 25. I’m in the next age checkbox on forms now! Ahhh!

8. When single friends tell me about their love lives, I have to discreetly wipe the drool off my chin and rearrange the lascivious expression on my face into something more…restrained.

9. I’ve recently started to appreciate plain hot water as a sensible beverage option.

10. I keep getting “ma’am”-ed in stores. Ma’am? Ma’am?! Seriously?!

 

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all I can think of right now (OMG– memory loss?!).

 

 Real Baby is the nickname I’ve decided to use for my new baby girl on this blog. When I was pregnant, we talked to Freestyle about the new baby. Initially, I wasn’t sure how much she understood because her own beloved baby doll is called, simply, “Baby” (or as she says it, “Bah-bee”). I would talk to her about how there was a baby inside Mommy’s tummy and then later ask, “Where’s the baby?” and she would point at or run to get her doll. So sometimes I would tell her that I wasn’t talking about her baby doll, I was talking about the real baby in my tummy. Now Freestyle calls her doll “Bah-bee doll” and will sometimes call our baby “Real Baby!” I couldn’t stop laughing when she first did it!

** This is a MUCH better option (IMHO– Ooh! Ooh! I know a fourth one!) for anyone thinking of throwing their friend a second baby shower…we already have everything we need and I SO much preferred a night to myself (with my sisters) where I could go out and not worry about hurrying home for bedtime, getting Freestyle ready for bedtime, and…SLEEPING IN! Well, you know, in theory.

 

I know it’s early, but…

9 Nov

Was listening to Q today and a regular contributor on the show said that she didn’t mind Christmas music being played early.

I totally agree with her, though not all share our opinion.! 🙂

Here’s my favourite Christmas song. The actual song starts at 1:49.

 

 

Ahh, that’s the stuff! 🙂

 

Flying With Baby? Do What They Did.

8 Nov

Photo Credit

 

This photo/story from reddit is a few weeks old, but come on, how smart were these parents!?

Apparently they handed one of these goody bags to every single passenger on the flight! Love the proactiveness (yes, made up word!), thoughtfulness, and sense of humour. I’d think this would disarm even the most grumpy person on the plane!

“Portable milk machine”…so true, so true! 🙂

I’m definitely doing that if I ever have to fly with a baby!

 

(They were definitely more considerate than me: when Freestyle was about 6 months old and we were at a playdate with my mom & baby group, we were talking about future playdate ideas. Mine was to meet at airport lounges with our babies and hang out, occasionally  loudly exclaiming things like:

“Baby’s first flight!”

“Oh, poor baby, you’re TEETHING!”

“Isn’t it great that we ALL got seats together in first class?!”

Heh heh.)

 

Any other tips from parents who’ve flown with a baby?

 

The Dirty Dozen & The Clean Fifteen!

1 Nov

 

 

[Edit: Again, a lot of these posts are written in advance. This new study about organic food was released on Sept. 4th. They claim that organic produce is not necessarily more nutritious than non-organic produce. I was telling a friend that I found this strange because I never thought that was the case. I just believe that the benefit of buying organic is that your produce will contain less/no pesticide/hormones/antibiotics. Anyway, it’s an interesting read.]

 

I’ve written before about trying to make sure that our family eats healthy meals and about the inevitable times when I fail at this!

 

Here is something that I think may help:

The Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

 

It lists the “Dirty Dozen” (produce that you should buy organic because they are commonly contaminated by pesticides) and the “Clean Fifteen” (produce that is low in pesticide).

 

DIRTY DOZEN +

(buy these organic)

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet bell peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries (domestic)
  12. Potatoes
  13. Green beans
  14. Kale/Greens

 

CLEAN 15

(low in pesticide)

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  12. Sweet potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms

 

I’ve heard of it before and was glad to find the full list! I find it so helpful to know what non-organic (read: cheaper) produce I can get away with without the guilt!

Here’s their handy, printable PDF file that you can bring along with you to the store.