Monday, 30 January 2017

Montessori Challenge - The Bathroom

Our bathroom is very much a work in progress. The wall needs replastering and painting. The skirting boards need repainting. Paint has even chipped off of the radiator. In short, it's a mess. In spite of this, we try to make it as usable space as possible for Baobao.

This week, I've been going into the bathroom with Baobao and her Baba, to see see how we could allow Baobao to access parts of her self care routine more independently. I tried to follow Carine's Bathroom Challenge questions as closely as possible:

  • Observe the room and how your child is using it. Every time your child asks for help (or when you fo and help him without asking), try to see what prevents him to do it by himself.
  • Depending of your child's age, encourage your child to be independent regarding self-care. As rule of thumb, if your child walks, he can attempt most of his self-care needs with little support.
  • Does your child have access to the sink? Can he see himself in the mirror?
    Does your child have access to his toilet accessories?
  • Can your child reach the light switch?
  • What kind of bath toys does your child have? Does he play with all of them? Can he access his toys by himself?

  • Baba usually supports Baobao to brush her teeth (at 23 months old, it's still important for us to brush her teeth and we will likely be at least supervising proper brushing for a significant time to come) as well as bathing her. I noticed that he had to get her toothbrush and toothpaste from a cup that she couldn't reach, as well giving Baobao her bath toys during bath time.

    Here are some of the changes we have made.

    Changes pre-challenge:

    Challenge inspired changes:

    Possible future changes:
    • Add Stugvik suction cup basket to hold Baobao's flannel and toiletries, making them accessible at bath time. - At this point in time, Baobao refuses to stand in the bath. The way our bathroom layout is set out, she would have to stand in the bath to access any of these items while cleaning and so this is something we will add in the future. She does get her own flannel from a drawer in her room before bath time though.
    • Lower bath toy storage - As with the toiletry storage, until Baobao is ready to stand in the bath, there is nowhere else for us to store her bath toys.
    • Add Tossig toilet seat to allow Baobao to use the toilet independently - This is a little way off as Baobao doesn't yet communicate her need to use the toilet.
    • Add toothpaste squeezer - Baobao's toothpaste was relatively full, and so she didn't have any issues squeezing it yet. She has surprisingly good control. I will continue to observe to see if she needs a toothpaste squeezer to make her more independent.

    Do you have any other ideas on how we could make the bathroom more accessible for Baobao? What would you do differently?

    Saturday, 28 January 2017

    Thursday, 26 January 2017

    Baobao's Activity Time: Chinese New Year 2017

    It's nearly Chinese New Year, which is always an important time in our family. This year's celebrations begin on the 28th of January and we are waiting for Xiaobao to arrive. If Xiaobao arrives before Saturday, we'll be spending it at home resting and Baba's family will come to us. If Xiaobao hasn't arrived, then we will be celebrating with Baba's extended family.

    As it's such an important part of Baobao's culture, I am trying to teach her early about some of the different aspects of the festival. We have been doing a few activities in the run up to Chinese New Year and today/tomorrow we are having two preparation days.

    Here are some of the activities we will be doing over the next two days:

    Watch a video about Chinese New Year

    CBeebies run a wonderful programme about festivals celebrated by children from different cultures around the UK - Let's Celebrate. Baobao really enjoys watching programmes about real children, which will hopefully translate into enjoying learning about how other people live in the future.

    We're going to start the day by watching a video from the series about Chinese New Year. It serves as a visual way for Baobao to understand why we are doing the activities that we are doing today.

    Cleaning in Preparation

    Over the next two days, we will be cleaning the house and decorating in preparation for Chinese New Year. You should sweep out the old in preparation to welcome in the new year. This symbolises removing the bad luck of the previous year from your home. This is the first year when Baobao can join in and although it will make our progress slower, it is an important part of the run up to Chinese New Year.

    Once we have finished cleaning, we will decorate the house with red decorations, including some of the activities that Baobao has completed over the last few days.

    Lunar New Year Transferring Activity

    One of our activities was introducing Baobao to chopsticks. She's still a little young to use them to eat, but this transferring activity based on the one on Living Montessori Now is the perfect way for her to practise.

    Baobao really enjoyed using her own chopsticks. She has been interested in them for a while, since we use them regularly at home and at her grandparents' house, so receiving her own pair caused great excitement. She isn't quite ready to eat with them yet, but picking up playdough using two hands to open and close the chopsticks is a great start for the fine motor skills she will require to eventually use them one handed.

    Preparing gifts

    My First Chinese New Year Book
    Listen and Learn First Chinese Words Book
    Rather than getting Baobao a red envelope for Chinese New Year, we have decided to give her a language and culture gift each year. We feel it's important for her to gain as deep a connection as possible to her Chinese roots and this is a way for her to do it.

    We chose My First Chinese New Year as it is by the same author as her Baby Loves... books. This means that without us being able to see the book in advance, we knew that it would be at an appropriate level for Baobao to understand.

    The other book we have chosen is Listen and Learn First Chinese Words. We wanted a resource that Baobao could use on her own, a way for her to practise Mandarin when her Baba is at work or she wasn't visiting her grandparents. We're just waiting for this book to arrive, but we'll review it when it does.

    Listen to Chinese songs

    A Little Mandarin Album
    One of the best ways to learn a language is through song. It helps with pronunciation, intonation and remembering vocabulary. This is especially true for children, who find it easier to remember most things through song. This has been the only album of Mandarin songs I have been able to find so far for Baobao, so we listen to it regularly. She really enjoys the songs and will join in with the actions.

    Make decorations for Chinese New Year

    Make Paper Cup Lanterns
    Baobao really enjoyed this activity. As we couldn't find red paper cups, I glued some red felt to a paper cup and allowed it to dry overnight. We then used sticky shapes to decorate it. Baobao found peeling the back off of the shapes tricky and asked me to peel them for her. I would start it and then she peeled the rest. She placed them all herself on to the lantern.

    Once the superglue holding the ribbon to the lantern had dried and we had tidied away the tray, Baobao chose where we would hang her lantern. She was very excited to have it hung on our window tree.

    Are you celebrating Lunar New Year with a toddler this year? How have you introduced the festival to them?

    Monday, 23 January 2017


    When we had our kitchen fitted in October, back at the beginning of our KonMari challenge, we decided to go through our kitchen items as we put them back. Anything we didn't use, was discarded.

    So here we are, four months later. We have only added two pieces of kitchen equipment since then - a breadmaker, which is used every other day, as and when we run out of bread, and a toasted sandwich maker, which we haven't used yet.

    We have lost a bowl and chipped two others. A chipped bowl doesn't bring me joy, but would leave us with only four bowls. Since my diet has consisted of mostly cereal during this pregnancy, that seemed like a terrible idea, so instead we have continued to use it until we find new bowls that fit in with our current, joy sparking set. They don't have to match perfectly, but the shape should at least be similar.

    Instead of using this week as an opportunity to declutter further, we wanted to make sure the cupboards are tidy instead. With a toddler supporting us to put away crockery, this can prove a little difficult to maintain.

    Here are some pictures of our kitchen cupboards and their contents:

    Pots/Pans/Steamer Baskets

    Cutting Boards/
    Mixing Bowls/Small Appliances/Plates/Bowls 

    Casserole Dishes/
    Baking Pans/Tins

    Baking Utensils/
    Cooking Utensils/Serving Utensils/Knives/Baking Accessories

    Coffee Mugs/Thermo Cups/Glasses /Water Bottles 

    Hot Pad Holders/Trivets

    Are you taking part in the KonMari process? How did you find sorting through your kitchen supplies? Did you find you had more or less than you thought? Do your kitchen cupboards now spark joy or have you set out to buy all new dishes? How have you found going through shared categories?

    Friday, 20 January 2017

    Being Prepared Part 5: Old Wives Tales For Inducing Labour Naturally

    It's the 20th of January and it's my due date. I was already pretty impatient in the run up to the "due date", but now that we've reached it, it really is time for me to try everything I can to get labour going. I feel like it's especially urgent, as I seem to be feeling worse. Heartburn and acid reflux have been the bane of my third trimester experience and I now have added nausea and lower back pain. Things are starting to feel increasingly hopeless. As I keep saying to my long suffering husband: I just want Xiaobao here.

    Now, I know that these are unlikely to work, but given that my hospital like to induce at 40 weeks +12 days, I would really like this labour to start naturally, if possible. So here are some of the methods I have tried so far, with a little bit of information on how they are supposed to work:
    • Spicy food
      When waiting for labour, almost everyone will tell you to have a curry. The theory is that spicy food stimulates your stomach and so could also stimulate your uterus into contracting. I can safely say, given the amount of spicy food I have eaten in the last two weeks, that I don't think this works. All I have gotten is extra indigestion, heart burn and acid reflux.
    • PineappleI loved pineapple before the third trimester. Now for this old wives tale to work, you would need to eat seven fresh pineapples. Yes, SEVEN. In one go. I don't think I could do that. Grazing on pineapple definitely hasn't worked though and just leaves me feeling ill after.
    • Sex
      Sex encourages the release of oxytocin, which in turn triggers contractions. Orgasms could also trigger contractions, as your uterus will already be contracting from the orgasm. Sperm is also supposed to soften the cervix. Too bad it's really uncomfortable with a 40 week bump.
    • Nipple Stimulation
      Not up for sex? Try nipple stimulation. By mimicking the sensation of your baby suckling, your body releases oxytocin, which should start contractions. (Noticing a pattern?)
    • Walking/Bouncing on a birthing ball/Going over speed bumps
      Walking lots encourages baby to move down on to your cervix, which should help to thin your cervix and stimulate the release of, yes that's right, more oxytocin. This is the method I am currently going with, although I am a lot slower that I used to be and become tired easily. A walk to my local charity shop or around my local park helps to make the day less monotonous, at least. Bouncing on your birthing ball or going over speed bumps in the car may have a similar effect.
    There are obviously some methods for inducing labour missing, such as aromatherapy, hypnosis, acupuncture, homeopathy etc. This is partially because trying them on my own could be dangerous or I would rather wait than make an appointment to have a consultation with a professional. 

    What methods did you try? Did they work for you? Do you have any more I could try before the 12 days are up? Let me know in the comments below.

    Thursday, 19 January 2017

    Our Family Room: Learning Areas

    Baobao and I spend most of our afternoons in our living room. It has become her primary learning and play space, with a limited number of toys staying upstairs for when we are cleaning the upstairs rooms. Maybe it's the early years teacher in me, or because I like the idea of homeschooling Baobao in the future, but we have arranged our living room into different areas. They are still a work in progress, as we continue to decorate our living room, but I wanted to share them with you.

    • easel
    • resource drawers
    • paper tray
    • art displayed on fireplace

    • Kitchen
    • Dressing up box
    • Basket for accessories
    • Mirror
    • Pictures on boxes to show what resources go inside

    • Bookshelves
    • Books
    • Soft mat
    • Cushions
    • Blanket

    Toy Shelf
    • Kallax shelf next to sofa
    • Four types of toy on display, rotated on the weekend, dependent on what Baobao has enjoyed playing with.

    • Lack table/chair
    • Kallax with doors/shelves for activity resources
      - organised by learning area/type
      - section for seasonal resources
      - tray to put activity on when prepared

    Baby Area
    • Baby safe mirror on wall
    • Small shelf/basket with toys & books
    • Mobile
    • High contrast images
    • Movement mat
    • Sheepskin fleece
    Changing area
    • Mat next to TV stand
    • Resources in one cupboard of TV stand

    Monday, 16 January 2017

    KonMari Challenge Week 14: PANTRY and FRIDGE

    This is a category that we try to go through regularly. We only have limited pantry space and so try to only buy items that fit and we will use. We discarded some items back in October, when we first moved back into our kitchen after having a new kitchen fitted. It has been three months since then, so the perfect time for another clear out. The aim was to get rid of anything that was out of date or that we were unlikely to use.

    Spices - keep

    Spices - discard

    Flours - discard

    Flours - keep

    Additions - keep

    Additions - discard

    Canned Products 
    Canned Products - discard

    Boxed Products 
    Boxed Products - keep

    Pasta/Noodles/Whole Grains/Rice/Beans


    Snacks - keep

    Snacks - discard

    Condiments - keep

    Teas/Coffees/Hot drinks
    Hot Drinks - keep

    Hot Drinks - discard

    Sweeteners - keep

    Sweeteners - discard

    Perishables in Fridge and Freezer  
    Are you taking part in the KonMari process? How did you find sorting through your pantry? Did you feel guilty for buying foods and then not using them? Has it made you rethink your food buying habits?