Friday, 31 March 2017

30 Days to Hands On Play: A Play Challenge

Recently, I've been feeling a little disconnected. A combination of a difficult pregnancy and difficulties breastfeeding Xiaobao has meant that Baobao has watched far more television than we had planned.

Now that we're finally in more of a routine, I thought I would look for ways to do more with Baobao. I came across this set of posts at the imagination tree and hands on as we grow. It's an old challenge from 2011, but a good way for me to focus back on doing more learning through play with Baobao.

Each day has a different theme to base an activity for Baobao around and I will try to blog about them here. Hopefully, this will kick start me into the routine of blogging again too.

Day 1: Mission Statement
Day 2: Make a den
Day 3: Block building challenge
Day 4: Pretend Islands
Day 5: Play dough exploration
Day 6: Family time
Day 7: Mega floor doodles
Day 8: Water play
Day 9: Sensory tub play
Day 10: Concoctions
Day 11: Outside adventure
Day 12: Field trip
Day 13: Sticky art
Day 14: Act out a story
Day 15: Playing with junk
Day 16: A hunt
Day 17: A reading tent
Day 18: Hands on play
Day 19: Music making
Day 20: In the kitchen
Day 21: Have a party
Day 22: Paint
Day 23: Printing with objects
Day 24: Investigate
Day 25: Small world play
Day 26: Playful fun
Day 27: Dressing up
Day 28: Play in a box
Day 29: Role play
Day 30: Special craft

Check back here daily for different activities that I do with Baobao.

Montessori Challenge - Toys

Links are either where I have bought items previously, or a brilliant small business where I shop regularly. I receive nothing for clicking on links, except the warm glow of sharing lovely things with you.

This month, we've taken a step away from looking at specific areas of the house and instead are focusing on toys. While we don't follow Montessori principals strictly, I do find that when I present Baobao's toys in a Montessori manner, she is more drawn to them.

This week, I have been observing Baobao carefully while she plays, noting how she plays and which games she enjoys the most. I've used Carine's Bathroom Questions and these posts at The Kavanaugh Report and How We Montessori to make my own toy questions:

  • Observe the room and how your child is using it. Every time your child asks for help (or when you go 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.
  • What is your position on toys - plastic? battery operated toys? characters? realism? - and only keep those that fit
  • What purpose does the toy serve? Does it serve a similar purpose to a different toy? Can it be replaced with a real life task - eg real life cleaning replacing toy cleaning tools.

  • Baobao has become increasingly overwhelmed by the number of toys recently, even though we only just purged in December. She seems to prefer fewer toys and thrives in a more physical play space. Her favourite independent play activity is her kitchen and since she helps daily to make her meals and snacks, as well as baking once a week, we have decided not to purge her toy kitchen. As I am writing this, she is making tea using smiley face stickers that she received at a toddler group for Easter.

    As for our position on toys, I'm sure you've already guessed. No plastic, battery operated or character toys. Preferably all natural, ethically produced items. Our main deviation from Montessori is that we don't really need our toys to be realistic. Our animals are wooden, from German brand Holztiger, our play people are peg dolls, primarily Grimms Rainbow Friends and our baby doll is a Nanchen Waldorf doll.

    Here are some of the changes we have made:

    Changes pre-challenge:
    • You can see our original toy purge here
    Challenge inspired changes:
    • Further reduced toys out on rotation, to help Baobao feel less overwhelmed
    • Removed toys that she has mastered
    • Put away puzzles and toys that are too difficult
    • Reduced amount of art materials available at any given time
    Possible future changes:
    • Replace one 2x2 Kallax with a PS 2017 shelving unit so that we can fit all of Baobao's toys on one shelving unit
    • Get some mini trays, small trays and matching baskets(here and here) to present toys in a visually appealing manner
    • Make a treasure basket for Baobao and later Xiaobao to use, like these (here and here)
    • Replace Baobao's building blocks, with more natural looking blocks. Such as these from Grimms (here or here

    Thursday, 30 March 2017

    Baobao's Activity Time: Our Daily and Weekly Rhythm at 2 years and 1 month

    Recently, I've been thinking quite carefully about our daily rhythm. Baobao functions much better when we are following a routine and with our recent pregnancy and the arrival of Baobao, routine went out of the window.

    While reading around and looking for a way to establish a flexible routine, I found this wonderful post from Waldorf Today which explains the Waldorf concept of rhythm quite clearly. In the Waldorf tradition, the children's day alternates between 'breathing in' and 'breathing out' periods. Breathing in periods are the periods of concentration when a child can relate to himself. This includes activity times such as when they are drawing or painting, or when they are eating. Breathing out periods are when children relate to their surrounding world. These are your free play times. Each breathing in period requires a breathing out period, so you end up with a daily rhythm. 

    I've taken inspiration from the Waldorf tradition to create our daily rhythm.

    Our Daily Rhythm

    • Wake up and Good Morning
    • Breakfast
    • Get dressed
    • Preparations for the day/play time
    • Park/local toddler groups
    • Snack time
    • Errands/Housework
    • Lunch
    • Nap time
    • Snack
    • Daily activity/Play time
    • Housework/Play time
    • Dinner
    • Family time with Baba
    • Bath time
    • Story time
    • Good Night and sleep

    Our Weekly Rhythm

    • Monday: park/nature explorers - baking - clean kitchen
    • Tuesday: park - modelling - clean bathroom
    • Wednesday: Tot's club/nature explorers - painting - clean living room
    • Thursday: Jelly Tots/Creative Kids - music & movement - clean toddler bedroom
    • Friday: Toddler Sense - drawing - clean grown up bedroom
    • Saturday: Shopping - family time/language immersion - clean hall
    • Sunday: Excursion - family time - monthly cleaning task
    At this point. Xiaobao spends her day in the sling or on her activity mat. She observes our daily life while being close to me. She naps as and when she wants to. As she becomes more active, I will have to review our daily rhythm. Until then, we will continue to settle into our life as four.

    Monday, 27 March 2017

    Baobao's Activity Time: Teddy Bears' Picnic

    I've been thinking about some of the activities we did with Baobao before starting this blog. One of her favourites was a Teddy Bears' Picnic.

     Teddy Bears' Picnics are an easy to set up activity that can hold Baobao's attention for a little while. She loves exploring the cutlery, bowls, plates and cups, as well as playing with her different soft toys. I love that she gets to practise and learn how to use a cup, without the water and spoons, and without the mess.

    While we are playing, I will pretend to feed her toys, using the spoons and cups, modelling how to use them, as well as social conventions, such as sharing. I also name and sign all of the items we are using and explain what we are doing.

     This means that having a picnic is an excellent activity that covers different areas of development, including communication and language, PSE and physical development.

    Monday, 20 March 2017

    KonMari Challenge Week 23: DIGITAL CLUTTER

    Digital clutter is one of the hardest things for me to keep on top of. I often download files and pictures etc and always forget to delete them or sort them. This week allowed me to focus on that.

    I did find it incredibly tedious though. Opening files, looking at them and then deciding to delete them or putting them in a folder is definitely boring. In fact I kept putting it off. Here are some of the things I decluttered this week.

    Computer Programs
    Computer Peripherals
    Email Subscriptions
    Email Accounts





    Internet Bookmarks

    Pictures (may move to sentimental if needed)

    Are you taking part in the KonMari process? How did you find sorting through your digital clutter? Was it as time consuming and tedious as I found it? Did you keep putting it off?

    Thursday, 16 March 2017

    Baobao's Activity Time: Spring Equinox 2017

    The wheel of the year has turned some more and finally the days are about to become longer than the nights. It's nearly the spring equinox, the day when day and night are equal. In 2017 it falls on March the 20th.

    Here in the Baobao Tea and Soy household, we want to celebrate the changing of the seasons and nature, without going into some of the more religious aspects. In a way, I don't want to force my beliefs on Baobao and Xiaobao. We will prepare over the next week, by doing various crafts and doing seasonal cleaning.

    Here are a few of our spring equinox activities, many of which could also be used next month as Easter crafts.

    Make carrot cake

    Paint a spring cutout painting

    Make flowers out of modelling clay

    Decorate wooden eggs

    Read spring books

    What are you doing in preparation for the spring equinox? 

    Monday, 13 March 2017

    KonMari Challenge Week 22: FURNITURE

    I haven't found myself discarding much furniture. Most is still about half full and I feel like there is still so much clutter as I come to the end of this challenge. This is especially true as I still have boxes of items I intend to sell that I haven't managed to list yet. I'm hoping that as Xiaobao gets a little older, I'll be able to get on top of the house again.

    As it is, we have only discarded three items of furniture. Two need to be listed on a local selling site or donated. The bed will be going to my sister. We replaced the double bed with a kingsize, for the nights when Baobao comes into our bed.

    Sofas/ Love Seats/Couches 


    Miscellaneous Furniture

    Are you taking part in the KonMari process? How did you find sorting through your furniture? Did you find yourself keeping items of furniture that didn't bring you joy, because you had no where else for the contents to go or couldn't afford a replacement?

    Thursday, 9 March 2017

    Handling Toddlerhood Gently And Respectfully

    Baobao turned 2 a month ago. She is fiercely independent and already has a good idea of how things should be, and so she tends to have tantrums at least once a day. We try to handle these moments in her day as gently and respectfully as possible.

    In order to do this, we try to implement ideas from Attachment Parenting, Gentle Parenting and RIE that chime with us. One of the ideas we try to use all the time is Sarah Ockwell-Smith's 7 Cs of Gentle Parenting. Here is how we try to implement them at home:

    • Connection
      Connection is incredibly important to both Baobao and I. We worked hard to build a connection over her first year, when I struggled to bond after a long labour and difficulty breastfeeding. Bedsharing easily saved me in that first year. With the birth of Xiaobao though, we felt that connection being weakened, so we have been working hard again to repair our connection.

      Ways we have done that is to include a time each day, while Xiaobao naps, where we do activities together. This allows Baobao some special mama time. She also comes into our bed whenever she wakes in the middle of the night, where we will snuggle together.
    • Communication
      Baobao is quite good with communication. She can name her feelings, as well as verbalise what would make her feel happy. To communicate respectfully with Baobao, we get down on their level and try to be very clear in what we mean. We don't shy away from using "grown-up" words. Instead we explain what they mean. We try to speak positively, telling her what we want her to do, instead of what we don't want her to do. Most of all, we try not to shout.
    • Control
      Baobao is very independent and we try to fascilitate that independence, while setting appropriate boundaries. Following montessori principles is brilliant for this. Baobao is able to access snacks and water independently, and supports me in caring for Xiaobao. 
    • Containment
      Baobao, like other children this age, has very big emotions. She can be like a container ready to boil over. I see it as my job to allow her to feel those emotions, by calmly supporting her. At times it is hugely difficult and those are the times that I need to empty my own container. I do this by crafting, reading and talking to friends and my partner.
    • Champion
      I champion Baobao at all times. I do this by trying to think things through and decide whether they are for Baobao's benefit or for my own or somebody else's. I also do this, by following the same principals and steps when she tantrums outside of the home, as if she were tantruming at home, defending her if omebody comments negatively.
    • Confidence
      Baobao is generally quite confident, but he also has times when she is more introverted and quiet. During these times, I don't force her to socialise or seperate from me. Instead I allow her to explore in her own time, returning to me for reassurance as often as she needs. 
    • Consistency
      Consistency is important at any age, but more so during toddlerhood when children are first learning about boundaries. Sometimes it feels like we are constantly repeating ourselves, but this repetition is part of how children learn. It can become frustrating, at which point I need to go back to containment and emptying my own container.
     Are you parenting gently and respectfully? How do you implement the 7 Cs at home? Would you do anything differently?

    Monday, 6 March 2017

    KonMari Challenge Week 21: PETS

    We don't have much pet equipment. Our two cats have a bed, two litter trays (one for each floor of the house), two food bowls each and two water bowls, dry food, wet food (as a treat) and their respective medicines, so I don't feel the need to purge and discard any of their items.

    Our plan is, once the house is decorated and more on track after having Xiaobao, for them to have their own space in the house and so have a space where all of their things are together. This is likely to be in the box room, that we mostly use for storage.

    Pet Dishes/Bowls 
    Pet Toys 
    Animal Bedding 
    Animal First Aid/Medications  

    Are you taking part in the KonMari process? How did you find sorting through your pet items? Did you find that you have just enough, or do your pets have a greater collection of items?

    Thursday, 2 March 2017

    5 Things We Do To Have A Gentle and Respectful Fourth Trimester

    Recently, I have been thinking quite a bit about how we parent. Outside of our local area, we are definitely a little alternative in how we do things. We try to combine different aspects of various "alternative" parenting techniques, drawing on Attachment Parenting, RIE, Montessori and Waldorf ideas.

    Xiaobao is currently in the fourth trimester, the first three months after birth, when an infant is at their most dependent. We're trying to approach this time in the most respectful and gentle way possible, while still working to build attachment in a similar way to Baobao. Here are five things we are doing to try to have the most gentle and respectful fourth trimester that we can.

    1. Skin to skin
      Skin to skin contact is amazing for babies. It helps to stabilise a baby's heartrate, body temperature and stress hormones, as well as promoting the production of oxytocin, the happy hormone that aids bonding between baby and parent.
    2. Co-sleeping/Bedsharing
      Done safely, bedsharing is great for babies and parents. Everyone gets more sleep, as babies are calmer and sleep more easily in bed with you. The breastfeeding relationship tends to be aided by bedsharing, improving milk production and allowing the relationship to last for longer. Baby also tends to be more closely attached, as parents meet baby's needs at all times, which should lead to more independence as they get older.
    3. Babywearing
      We love babywearing here at Baobao Tea and Soy. I carried Baobao until she was 18 months and pregnancy related symptoms got in the way. Xiaobao is 4 weeks old today and definitely feels the need to be close to meat all times. Baobao, on the other hand, is craving my attention and love with all of the changed going on. Babywearing allows me to honour both of their needs. If you're lanning on babywearing, make sure you follow the TICKS.
    4. Feeding on demand
      Feeding on demand helps establish supply and helps baby's skull bones return to the proper place after birth. Feeing whenever baby wants also helps to ease the transition from womb to outside world. We've had a lot of trouble with feeding, Baobao refused the breast for the first 2 weeks of her life, until we were given some exercises to try. Throughout this period, we bottle fed on demand.
    5. CommunicationRecently I have been reading many blog posts about RIE parenting. We're trying to incorporate some of the ideas into how we communicate with Xiaobao. Even at this young age we are attempting to name her emotions and ask her permission to do things such as pick her up or change her nappy. We also talk her through everything that we do.