Thursday, 21 September 2017

When Modelling Is Enough.... Thoughts On Please, Thank You and Sorry

This morning, Baobao swung her hobby horse and it hit Baba in the leg. He cried out, understandably, because being hit in the leg with a wooden stick hurts. Baobao looked at him apologetically and said "I'm sorry Baba for hitting you in the leg"

I'm sorry Baba for hitting you in the leg

No prompting, cajoling or asking her to say something she didn't understand or mean. Just a heartfelt apology from a place of being truly sorry that she had hurt her father.

We've never told Baobao to apologise if she hurts someone. I would often apologise on her behalf, if she had hurt someone, because I was sorry that she had, but the responsibility had to be hers. I didn't want her to parrot it or learn that it would get her out of trouble. I knew she wouldn't say it until she understood it this way, that it might take her longer than other children that we knew, but in my role as her champion (as part of the gentle parenting seven Cs), I knew that it was ok to wait and that she would get there eventually.

Recently she has also started saying please. It is interesting because her whole demeanour will change, from shouty and demanding, to calm and sweet. I know though that she means it. She understands that other people respond better to requests with the word please attached and in her own time she has learnt to navigate some of the social niceties that make society run more smoothly. We have never withheld anything from her until she said it. Never demanded she said it. Just modelled and remodelled her sentences for her from time to time.

We are still working on thank you. She'll often say 'You're welcome' instead. I blame Maui from Moana, but at 2 years and 7 months, I'm happy to see the direction she is travelling in, all on her own steam.

So if you're worried about your child not being polite enough yet, please don't be. Consistent modelling really is enough. They will get there, when they are developmentally ready and for all children that day is a little different. For us it came today. For you it will too.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Gentle Parenting? What is it and why are we doing it?

I have a confession to make. We are gentle parents. Some people don't really like to be labelled, but we quite like this one.

So what is gentle parenting? 

Sarah Ockwell Smith wrote on her blog that it is parenting with empathy, respect, understanding and boundaries.

Empathy - Being understanding of your child's feelings and using that empathy to decide what to do in each situation. It's so much easier for them to learn empathy (when it is developmentally appropriate) when they have seen it modelled to them their whole life.
Respect - Treating children like real people and offering them the same respect you would offer another adult. If they have respect modelled to them, then they will respect you in return.
Understanding - Understanding that children are going through a lot developmentally at any given time, understanding that children's behaviour is often a result of something they are trying to communicate and understanding of what is appropriate developmentally of a child at any age, be that in relation to sleep, sharing or even self-control.
Boundaries - Just because you are empathetic, respectful and understanding of what your child is going through, doesn't mean that you just let them do anything they want. Everybody needs boundaries. It's just that in gentle parenting we try to make sure that those boundaries are developmentally appropriate.

So why do we do it?

Because gentle parenting is the same as authoritative parenting.

So in terms of parenting styles there are usually three types

  • permissive parenting - parenting with no boundaries and low expectations
  • authoritative parenting - parenting with realistic boundaries, respectfully enforced and age-appropriate expectations
  • authoritarian parenting - parenting with strict boundaries, enforced with punishments, and behaviour expectations that may not be age appropriate
There are a million reasons to be an authoritative parent - or gentle parent from now on. Here are some of our reasons:
  • We want Baobao to have the words to explain her own emotions and to be able to eventually regulate her emotions. We don't want her to suppress them, as encouraged by time out, but we don't want to explain them away either. 
  • We want Baobao to have a growth mindset, so rather than focusing on the outcome, offering huge amounts of praise or rewards, we focus on the joy in the process and how hard she has worked to get to that point. We use specific praise, rather than a generic "Well done!"
  • We want Baobao to be independent. We hear quite often that children need to be independent, so we should move them to their own room or leave them with other people as soon as possible, but attachment theory proves the opposite is true. In order to be truly independent, you must first have a secure base attachment. I am happy to be Baobao and Xiaobao's safe place until they are ready to fly.
  • Most of all, to us it just makes sense. (It's that simple)

Thursday, 14 September 2017

3 Low Resource Sociability Activities For 6-9 Months

Xiaobao turned 6 months old this week. I have been doing little activities with her since she was a newborn (0-2 month activities3-6 month activities). We have found it's a good way to get Baobao involved with Xiaobao and to foster a loving relationship between the two. We're aiming for toy minimalism, so enjoy activities with little or no resources.

Around 7-9 months, babies first begin to realise that if she cant see you, you're not there and so they are likely to begin to experience separation anxiety. Babies also begin to learn about and experience a range of emotions, including joy, anger and frustration, and begin to take more notice of other babies.

Feet and Toe Songs

Feet and toe songs, such as 'This Little Piggy' and 'Wee Wiggie' are good for sociability. Singing songs while in physical contact builds friendliness and humour, as well as talking and imitation.

Hand and Finger Songs

Just like feet and toe songs, hand and finger songs, such as "round and round the garden" and "tommy thumb" are excellent for improving fine finger movement, coordination, humour, friendliness and communication skills.

Baby Massage

When Baobao was little, we did baby massage on a weekly basis. I haven't really been able to do it with Xiaobao as part of a class, but we have always done a little at home after her bath. We did this because for a newborn baby touch is as vital as vitamins, hence skin to skin being encouraged. It's not just for milk production. As babies get older you can name body parts, vary the types of strokes used and vary the pace at which you massage, teaching baby about fast and slow. In terms of sociability, baby massage helps with forming relationships, learning to trust and being responsive to others, as well as helping baby to relax of course. 

Monday, 11 September 2017

6 Low Resource Fine Motor Skill Activities For 6-9 Months

Xiaobao turned 6 months old this week. I have been doing little activities with her since she was a newborn (0-2 month activities3-6 month activities). We have found it's a good way to get Baobao involved with Xiaobao and to foster a loving relationship between the two. We're aiming for toy minimalism, so enjoy activities with little or no resources.

Learning to sit up securely (around 5-7 months for most babies), babies have a secure base from which to work on their fine motor skills. Passing objects from hand to hand, as well as reaching for something she can see without watching her hands are two of the things she will be working on during this time.

Clap, clap clap

Around 5-6 months, you can begin to introduce clapping games, such as pat-a cake. Just like all rhymes, clapping games improve memory and speech, as well as, hand-eye coordination and bi-manual coordination. They also encourage babies to participate.

Build it up and knock it down

This is also around the time that you can begin introducing bricks and blocks. Younger babies can hold bricks, exploring different shapes and textures. Later, she'll be able to bang them together or knock down a tower that you build for her. This will lead to baby eventually being able to build a tower themselves (around a year).

Music Making Fun

Once baby is sitting independently, you can begin to introduce musical instruments. While we have a few, such as drums and a xylophone, nothing quite beats a wooden spoon and a pan for good old fashioned noise making. Making music improves hand-eye coordination, grasp, strength, creativity and listening.

Sorting and Matching Games

Around 7 months you can begin to introduce sorting and matching games. This can be as simple as pointing out similarities and differences between animals in books or everyday objects or giving baby objects of different shapes or colours to explore and eventually match. Matching socks is a brilliant example of this. 


Self-feeding, as part of baby led weaning or traditional weaning, is an easy and cheap way to practise fine motor skills. Generally it works on hand-eye coordination and hand-control, first working on whole hand grasp and then pincer grip. 

Give and Take Games

Around 7 months you can begin to introduce give and take games. This involves giving baby a toy or object and then encouraging them to give it back to you, sometimes by gently taking it, and narrating what you are doing the whole time. This helps to work on grasp refinement, as well as sharing and observation. We tend to do this as a part of baby groups, such as baby sensory, but is easily done at home as a cheaper option.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Our Joint Montessori Inspired Toddler And Baby Shelves

 Xiaobao is a real mover. She's in to everything. She loves opening drawers and emptying boxes and just exploring everything. I love watching her need to explore. Her curiosity knows no bounds.

This curiosity does have some pitfalls, however, Baobao is becoming increasingly frustrated.. She has been hugely into doing large floor puzzles recently and Xiaobao finds the pieces fascinating, which is obviously a huge clash point. A huge frustration for me, has been Baobao's organised shelves being destroyed.

I asked around on a couple of Montessori Facebook groups, and a solution that called to me was joint shelves. Out shelves had previously been seperate, with a shelf for toys, a shelf for more Montessori inspired work for Baobao and a shelf for Xiaobao. I pushed them together and got to work.

Top: basket of ribbons, skwish, egg and cup, basket of balls
Bottom: hologram pictures, mini rolling wheel, basket of things to bite

Top: basket of fabrics to explore, push car, black and white animal art cards
Bottom: rainbow, stacking boxes
I tried to curate a mix of toys and work on the bottom shelves that both children could use and explore differently. All the items are safe for Xiaobao to mouth, as that is her number one way of exploring things. The baskets of fabric, balls and ribbons are currently the most popular. Xiaobao enjoys chasing the balls across the room and exploring the different ribbons and fabrics. Baobao rolls, throws and tries to catch the balls, wraps things up in the fabric and uses the ribbon for dressing up. The only limit is their imagination and stage of development at this point.

Smelling jars, bunny dress up puzzle, set of four 12 piece puzzles

sound jars, animal matching game, cat puzzle
Have I mentioned that Baobao is obsessed with puzzles and matching at the moment? She always wants us to match - be it cutlery, plates, clothes, food.... everything! I've tried to cater to that interest in her current shelves. Puzzles that she finds just a little bit tricky and a few sensorial matching activities. The most important part about her shelves however, are the fact that these are the activities that aren't really suitable for Xiaobao to have just yet and so, they are up on the shelf that she cannot reach.

This change has certainly made Baobao feel calmer. She now happily takes her work up to the big dining room table (Xiaobao gravitates to the toddler size table) and takes it back to the top shelf when done. Interestingly she doesn't with the bottom shelves. She feels as if they have different rules and I suppose with Xiaobao accessing them they do, because I am constantly tidying them up to model it to Xiaobao.

How do you handle joint toddler and baby spaces? Do you have any suggestions on how I can combine their space more effectively?

Monday, 4 September 2017

Zero-Waste Week 2017

It is Zero Waste Week, a campaign to raise awareness of the impact of waste, as well as empowering those who take part to reduce their own waste. We have been trying to reduce our waste for a while, beginning with cloth nappy use and then taking part in Plastic Free July this year.

I wanted to take this week to take stock of how far we have come and the changes we are planning to make over the next year.

Here are some of the relatively simple changes we have made since July:

  • Stopped buying drinks in plastic bottles, replacing it with reusable bottles that we carry with us
  • Stopped buying coffee in takeaway cups, replacing it with a reusable cup that we carry with us, or drinking in
  • Refused straws at restaurants
  • Switched from liquid hand soap to bar soap
  • Switched from liquid shampoo and conditioner to solid shampoo and conditioner (and cut my hair so that I use less)
  • Avoid lightweight plastic bags by using canvas tote bags that I keep in my bag.
  • Reduce the amount of takeaways we have and asking them to use our own containers where we can
  • Avoid using plastic food wrap by storing leftovers in jars and containers
  • Switch from using plastic toothbrushes to  bamboo toothbrushes
We obviously have a long way to go, but these changes have been relatively simple. Here are some o the changes we plan to do this week or over the next few months as things run out:

  • Make our own cleaning products to reduce the amount of cleaning products we buy
  • Move away from disposable wipes and replace with flannels and reusable wipes.
  • Replace plastic items as they break with plastic free options - such as brushes, cups, plates etc.
  • Switch to shopping at the local market, butchers and fishmongers, as opposed to a supermarket.
  • Only give plastic free gifts and wrap using newspaper or playsilks for the children
What are you doing for Zero Waste Week?