Nokken: A Review of Two Books and A Few Thoughts

(Post updated 6/28/2012)  Nokken has come up on almost every Waldorf Yahoo!Group and Waldorf forum I am on, so I thought it was about time to address the work of Helle Heckmann.  More and more, Nokken is being held up as an example within the Waldorf community of what to do right within child care for young children, and as an example of the value of outdoor play and outdoor time and connection with nature for young children.  For this post, I read both “Nokken:  A Garden for Children” by Helle Heckmann and “Nokken:  A Garden for Kids September 2003 Celebration Edition.”  I hear there is also a lovely video about Nokken that I have not yet seen.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Nokken, Nokken is a Danish approach to  Waldorf-based childcare in Copenhagen, Denmark.  The minimum age for children to enter is walking age.  Helle Heckmann writes, “The child must be able to walk away from her mother and into the world on her own,” on page 26 of “Nokken:  A Garden For Children.”  The center is open for six hours a day only, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  “Our idea is that we share with the parents,” writes Helle Heckmann on the same page.  “We look after the children for six hours, the parents have them for six waking hours and the children sleep for twelve hours.  In other words, the family will still exert influence on the child’s development.”  The staff at the center does not change during the day, unlike child care centers in the United States that are open for long hours that necessitate shift changes.  The children are together in one group from walking age to age 7, and sibling groups are welcomed and kept together, which is again different from the vast majority of child care centers in the United States.  Most Americans would agree this is a huge and vast improvement over the majority of daycare centers in the United States.

Helle  Heckmann writes on page 27 of Nokken,”  It is obviously difficult.  Parents often need longer opening hours, while at the same time they want the world’s best early-childhood program with a motivated and relaxed staff.  This is a difficult task, and knowing that we cannot accommodate all needs, we have chosen to favor the children.  It is a conscious choice we have made as a child-care center. Most of our parents also have to make a choice.  They change jobs, reduce their working hours, or work flexible hours:  the solutions are many and varied as they consciously choose to spend a lot of time with their children.”

She goes on to write that the role of child care has changed; in the past it was for primarily for social stimulation and now,  “The centers must teach children the basics to help them achieve the necessary skills to choose their life style at a later stage.  The parents’ role is mainly to stimulate and organize activities of a social and/or cultural interest.”

Ouch.

Okay, I guess since I am home with my children, perhaps I have a different perspective on this as a homeschooling mother.  Why as a society do we throw up our hands and say, this is the way it is?  People have to work, people have chaotic home lives, so the children are better off in child care than with their own families?  Why are we not coming up with more ways to support and develop parents?  Why in this age of abundant information (yet, often contradictory and just plain wrong information!) are parents feeling so confused and isolated as to what children truly need?  Why is there not more understanding of children as children and childhood development and such as opposed to treating children as miniature adults?

Back to the things that are good about Nokken.  On page 31 Helle Heckmann writes, “Our first priority is to spend most of the day outdoors.  We spend five out of the six hours we are together outdoors.”  The children and staff walk daily to a park with open natural spaces and also have a garden with many fruit trees, berry bushes, sand pits, a hen house, rabbit cages, a pigeon house, a vegetable garden, a herb garden, flower beds and a laundry area.  The children who are younger and need to nap sleep  outside in an open shed, which is common in Denmark.

Children are met in the morning with a handshake, which I find uncommon for Early Year Waldorf programs in the United States.  This seems very awakening for the child, and something I truly only hear of teachers of Waldorf Grades doing with their students in the United States.  Perhaps my Danish readers can tell me if this is a cultural difference?  My husband’s family is from Denmark but have not lived there for a long time, so I have no one to ask!

The daily schedule is something that is lovely and takes into account the ages of the children.  On page 60 of Nokken, Helle Heckmann writes, “We are careful not to let the youngest children participate in story-telling.  If it is a long story, the three year olds sit in another room and draw, because in my experience it is important not to engage them in activities for which they are not ready.”  She also talks about how festival celebrations are mainly for children over 3 as well.  I love this.

The part I have the most difficulty with however, outside of the few things I mentioned above, is the perspective of child development based upon the work of Emmi Pickler and Magda Gerber and their Resources for Infant Educarers.  I realize this puts me outside of most in the Waldorf community, which has embraced RIE.

I liked Helle’s description of the need of the infant to cry as a form of communication.  However, much of the thrust of her perspective of infant care seems to be “to leave the infant in peace and quiet to sleep or, when awake, to get to know herself without constant intervention from her surroundings.  Often it is difficult to show this infant respect and leave her alone. Constantly satisfying your own need for reassurance and your need to look at your beautiful baby will often influence the infant’s ability to be content with herself….By giving the infant peace and quiet for the first months of her life, she will get used to her physical life; the crying will gradually stop, and the baby may start to sleep during the night without waking up at all hours.”

As an attached parent, I believe I can respect my child and still enfold her within my protective gesture and be physically close.  I believe I can still carry her in a sling and nurse her and  have her act as a (passive) witness to my life without overly stimulating her.  I believe in our particular culture at this particular time, parents need reassurance to enfold their child within themselves and their family unit, not to separate their children in their infancy to be independent.  Perhaps this is a cultural difference than Denmark, I don’t know.

However, I also have to say that I  do not believe baby-wearing is an excuse to take my children everywhere I went before I had children.  I believe in protecting the senses but doing this in an attached way.

I do agree with some of Helle Heckman’ s statements regarding infants, including her statement on page 17 of Nokken that, “The more restless the adults are, the more restless the children will be.”  However, statements such as “The less we disturb the infant, the better chance she has of adapting to her life on earth,” rather bothers me.  I agree in not initiating the disturbance of  the infant, but I fear too many parents will take this as license to just set their infant down and let them cry or to keep them passively in a crib.  I do  agree with Helle Heckmann’s assessment that it is difficult to care for children under walking age within a child care setting  because of the high needs of care and because infants need peaceful surroundings.

As a homeschooling mother, what I take away from Nokken is the lovely thoughts of a forest kindergarten, napping outside, using action to communicate with small children and not words (see page 32 of Nokken), using singing as a way of talking to small children (page 51), Helle’s constant inner work and development, her obvious love of the children.

And as a homeschooling mother and attached parent, I don’t like the whole notion that is invading Waldorf Education that children under the age of 4 or 4 and a half should be out of their homes, I don’t like the notion that the child care center, no matter how outdoorsy “shares” the child with the parents, and I don’t like the idea that parents are not as empowered as they could be in childhood development.  Why are we positioning anyone but the parents to be the experts on their children and acting as if someone else knows better?    Waldorf schools are also taking children earlier and earlier into Kindergarten, and I also have an issue with that.   I would like to see more effort to again, empower and inspire parents within the Waldorf movement to be home.   The hand shaking to greet a small child with such pronounced eye contact also baffles me.

There are many wonderful things at Nokken, and many American parents who need child care would be thrilled to find a center such as Nokken in their neighborhood.  Many mothers attempt to create such an environment as part of their homeschooling environment or take in children from outside their family for care so they may stay home with their own children.  These are all realities.

However, I would love to see a movement toward empowering and inspiring mothers to be homemakers, to be truly spiritual homemakers, to encourage families to make tough choices to be home with their children,  because I feel this is where the power of the next generation is truly going to disseminate from.

Blessings,

Carrie

“HELP! My puppy is biting my toddler!”

Today I have the great fortune of having a guest blog writer – my dear friend and expert dog trainer Samantha Fogg!  Thank you so much Samantha for this column and your expertise!  Here is what Samantha writes in response to a very common problem:

“HELP! My puppy is biting my toddler!!!”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten a phone call from a panicked parent who is considering sending their new puppy back to the breeder or to a shelter because the puppy is biting them, their child, and they think that perhaps their pup is aggressive, or bad, or that they can’t handle a puppy in a house with children.  Sometimes the parent has contacted other trainers who haven’t offered any help, but who have said things like “never leave a puppy and a young child together unsupervised” and the parent took this to me that combining puppies and children is dangerous.  Puppies and children CAN co-exist in the same household, but it will take a bit of work and understanding, and yes supervision.  But really, I don’t recommend leaving young children unsupervised, whether or not there is a puppy in the mix.

Puppies bite everything.  Human babies do this too.  Remember when your child stuck everything into his or her mouth?  Puppies are learning about their world, and they are exploring, and everything, including your fingers and your child’s hands, are things your pup wants to learn about so into the mouth they go.  Puppies don’t have hands, so where your human baby patted things, and rolled things in his or her hands, your pup can only use his or her mouth.

It may seem like a cruel joke that puppies are at their most oral at the same time that their teeth are the sharpest, and yes puppy teeth hurt.  Dogs need to have exquisite control over their mouths.  They need to be able to exert the precise amount of control to gently lift and carry fragile items, and also to be able to rip and tear food.  Super sharp puppy teeth guarantee that the pup will get lots of feed back about how much pressure s/he is exerting.  When puppies play with each other they wrestle, and bite, and grab onto each other.  If one puppy bites another puppy too hard, the hurt pup will give a high pitched yelp and go a bit limp.  The biting pup should immediately back off.  If the biting pup persists with biting too hard, the one being bitten will refuse to play with the biter.  Thus puppies learn exactly how hard they can bite each other without hurting, and they gain control of their mouths.

The longer a pup stays with Mom and littermates, the farther along in their bite inhibition training they will be, but even a 12 week old pup won’t have mastered his or her mouth so you’ll need to take over where Mom and the littermates left off.  Some people punish a dog for using his or her mouth, and while in the short term this may solve the problem of sore hands, in the long term, the dog doesn’t learn sufficient bite inhibition.  Hurt dogs defend themselves by biting, and if something terrible happens, say your toddler hurts your dog badly, you want the dog to know that humans are fragile, and to be able to restrain himself and only put his mouth on your child, and not scar your child.  Bite inhibition is critical.  To teach this, you (depending on the age of your children, you likely do not want them to do this)  want to solicit play with your hands.  When the puppy bites you too hard yelp like a hurt puppy and let your hand go limp.  Your pup should immediately back off.  When the pup backs off, start the game again.  If the pup is over-stimulated, or overly tired, the pup may have a bit of a temper tantrum, and may repeatedly bite too hard.  If this happens, your goal should be to calm your pup down, perhaps by giving the pup some time away from people, or using gentle friendly restraint.  When you yelp, a small percentage of puppies will react as though your hand is prey, and will attack more, if this happens, cease playing with the pup and ignore the pup for a couple minutes every single time the pup bites too hard.  As with most things in dog training, repetition is important.  The more frequently you work on this with your puppy the sooner your puppy will learn to control his mouth.

Once your pup is able to play with you gently, it is time to let the puppy know that they can only play with your hands if they are invited to do so.  If the pup isn’t invited to play and grabs at your hands, either yelp like a hurt puppy again, or simply walk away.  In the beginning you’ll want to initiate the game a lot so that your puppy can learn the difference between being invited to play (puppy gets to play), and not being invited to play (puppy doesn’t get to play).  Once your pup understands that teeth can only touch human skin if invited to do so, you can gradually stop asking your puppy to play this game at all.

In addition to teaching your pup about bite inhibition, you want to provide your puppy with plenty of puppy-safe toys to chew.  Stuffed kongs, especially ones that are frozen, are a great toy for pups, but take a look at your local pet supply store, and try things out (see www.kongcompany.com for kongs and stuffing ideas!).  Ideally you should get enough toys so that you can rotate the toys out.  Toys that a dog hasn’t seen in a couple weeks are far more exciting than toys that the dog sees on a daily basis.  Remember — puppies NEED to chew, so if you don’t provide things for the pup to chew on, your pup will find things to chew on, and you won’t like your puppy’s choices.

Depending on the age of your children, you’ll need to involve them in this process to a greater or lesser degree, but unless your child is a baby, your child will need to participate in the bite inhibition training.  Fortunately for many children their initial instinct when nipped by a puppy is to scream in a high pitched voice, and to refuse to play with the puppy.  But you still want to practice.  Start before your puppy arrives (or if you already have a puppy, start with the pup out of the room).  Have your child practice yelping like a hurt puppy.  Make this a fun game.  Also have them practice freezing, and going limp.  Make sure that your child does NOT hit the puppy, or get aggressive toward the puppy.

More important than teaching the child what to do when nipped, you want to set puppy and child up for successful interactions.  A great game to help with this is the Invisible Dog Game. You’ll need lots of dog treats for this.  The rules are as follows:

1. Dog must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet, and the leash must be held by an adult.

2. Dogs who are in a down position are VISIBLE.  Dogs who are doing ANYTHING except lying down, are INVISIBLE.

3. Dogs who are VISIBLE can be patted, talked to, and given treats.  Dogs who are INVISIBLE must be ignored.

4. Don’t talk to the dog or tell the dog what to do.  Just stick to the above rules, your dog will figure it out.

When you first play this game, your pup may have a hard time coming up with the idea to lie down.  That is OK, but you want to make sure that your child stays engaged, so talk to your child about how the dog is invisible and where is the dog, and so forth.  Try to avoid becoming so animated that the dog has fun with this.

As soon as your dog becomes visible (lies down), make a big deal about it.  “Oh, there is the dog!” and immediately give the dog treats.  If the dog leaps back up — and many will in the beginning — the dog is invisible again “where did the dog go?  Wasn’t the dog just here?”  As your dog gets the hang of this, your dog will spend longer, and longer in the down position and you’ll have the opportunity to do things like — “where is the dog’s tail” and as soon as the child touches the dog’s tail, give the dog a cookie, and “how many paws does the dog have?” and give the dog a cookie each time the child touches a paw.  When the dog gets even better the child can sit with the dog, patting the dog and telling the dog stories.

Quit the game before dog and child get tired of the game.

Of course, puppies are learning a lot more than just about how to control their mouths, and puppies, like small children, can have temper tantrums or lose control of themselves.  Puppies who get overly tired, or over -stimulated, may nip more, may fling themselves about, may even air snap.  Puppies benefit from having a rhythm to their days, and to having plenty of nap time.  Puppies tend to be energetic in bursts, and then need to sleep.  Puppies who miss naps are often fussy, and grumpy.  Make sure that your pup is getting plenty of down time.  Puppies who don’t get enough exercise also have trouble controlling themselves.  You don’t want to go on overly long walks, or runs with your pup, but you do want them to have plenty of off-leash play time.

To recap — spend a lot of time teaching your puppy about bite inhibition, give your pup plenty of things to chew, teach your children what to do if the puppy nips them but try to avoid the pup nipping the children as much as you can, play games that teach positive ways for child and pup to interact, have a rhythm to your day that includes both active times and quiet times for the puppy.

Samantha Fogg

work+play positive dog training

Atlanta, GA (The next Babies+Dogs class will start in October!)

http://workplaydogs.com

Thank you again, Samantha!

Carrie

A Waldorf Parenting Perspective: Won’t Choices Strengthen My Child’s Will?

In our society today, we tend to think that offering choices to children is what prepares them best for later decision-making. 

In Waldorf parenting, we tend to think that children under 7 can handle small choices, such as do you want your water in the red cup or the blue one but we don’t always offer an alternative to water if water is what we feel the child should be drinking.  We don’t always offer a whole heap of explanation either; it may just be built into the rhythm of the day that we have juice with breakfast and with all the other meals we have water.  The choice may be to wear a green sweater or a blue one, but not whether to wear the sweater at all as we work with the concept of warmth in the family.  The same thing goes toward such things as setting awake times and bed times, rest times after lunch and times of in-breath or out-breath.  The Waldorf parent feels the healthiest way to teach a child is not through an adversarial relationship regarding these things, not by having a battle of wills, but by having the rhythm of our day do the talking so to speak.  One does not argue with the seasons changing, the sun going down and the moon coming up, and one becomes a rhythmical being by practicing rhythm as set.  Negotiation regarding things sets in more somewhere after age 10, and certainly as the child heads into the third seven year cycle, more and more choice heads into it all.  There seem to be many Waldorf homeschoolers of age 14-16 and older who are very independent, well-adjusted individuals capable of mature decision-making.  I believe this is due to the foundation laid in these early years.

The physiology behind the small choices offered to a small child have to do with Steiner’s view of the seven year cycles.  A small child functions in the will, in the body, in the limbs and not in the head.  Decision-making comes in during third seven year cycle around the age of 14.  If you need further assistance with this notion as seen through the lens of the three-and four fold human being, please do see this post regarding some of Eugene Schwartz’s wise words:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/24/waldorf-education-adhd-and-what-the-parent-of-the-normal-child-can-learn/

These words that Eugene Schwartz wrote might in particular speak to you if you have familiarity of the three-and four-fold human being:

“On what basis will a seven year-old make a choice? Invariably, on the basis of sympathy and antipathy. And whence does he get this sympathy and antipathy? From his astral body, that is, from a member of his being that should not be “activated” until adolescence. An analogy might prove helpful here:

We can think of the child’s astral body as “soul principal” which is being held in a “cosmic trust fund” until such time as the youngster’s lower members are developed enough to receive it, i.e., ages 13-15. As is the case with a monetary trust fund in an earthly bank, it is the trustee’s responsibility to see that the principal is not disturbed for the apportioned period, knowing that the interest that it generates provides sufficient funds for the beneficiary’s needs. If, however, the trustee proves to be irresponsible, and the youngster for whom the principal is intended gets hold of it long before he is mature enough to make wise financial decisions, the principal will be drawn upon prematurely. In the worst case, the entire trust will be depleted, leaving neither interest nor principal at a time in the young person’s life that they are most needed.

In the course of healthy development, the young child has just enough astrality apportioned to her to sustain those organic processes requiring movement and catabolism, and to support such soul phenomena as the unfolding of interest in the world. And where do ADHD children have their greatest difficulties? In developing and sustaining any interest in anything for very long! The environments that we create for our youngest children, the way we speak to our grade schoolers, and our inability to differentiate between what is appropriate for an adult and not appropriate for a child – all of these phenomena eat away at astral “interest” early in life and devour astral “principal” long before it has ripened. By the time many “normal” young people are twelve or thirteen they seem to have lost interest in learning, or even in life; they have “been there, done that,” and take on a jaded, middle-aged attitude toward their own future. The ADHD child is only an extreme reflection of soul attitudes that will be endemic to many American children at the century’s end.”

Powerful and sobering words for us to think about as parents.

A way to help your child’s will be strengthened is to model having a will of your own – not a dictatorship, but not being completely wishy-washy about how things are done in your home.  Being compassionate, being a good listener, but also being able to hold the space in a loving way.

I would love to hear your thoughts,

Carrie

The Twelve Senses

I am going to try and synthesize a few things for you all that I recently learned from Donna Simmons at the Waldorf At Home conference held in Atlanta,  a presentation by Daena Ross for Waldorf In the Home (available through Rahima Baldwin Dancy’s on-line store in CD and DVD versions) and Barbara Dewey’s section on the twelve senses in her book “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge”. 

I am by no means an expert on the twelve senses, although I will say the twelve senses make a whole lot of sense to me due to my background as a neonatal/pediatric physical therapist.

Steiner postulated in his lectures that there were not only the five most obvious senses that we think of, but actually twelve senses that required development.  This has been proved in the medical community, although sometimes in medical literature and therapy literature you see reference to “systems” rather than “senses” although they are truly talking about the same thing!

The twelve senses are what unites the inner and outer world of the individual and what allows us healthy interaction with other people at the highest developed levels.  It takes a long time for these senses to be developed, but the foundational senses needed to develop some of the upper senses are most developed in the first seven years.  There we are, back to my soapbox about the first seven years!

The Lower Senses are seen in our will forces, they are unconscious, and they manifest in the metabolic-limbic system.  These include:

The Sense of Touch – through the organ of the skin.  This includes what is inside of me and what is outside of me.  Important ways to boost this foundational sense include vaginal birth, swaddling, holding, positive tactile experiences (NOT PASSIVE experiences, like through media or Baby Einstein! Active experiences!)  The lack of completion of this  sense is strongly related to ADHD according to Daena Ross. 

The Sense of Life or sometimes called The Sense of Well-Being – this encompasses such things as if you can tell if you are tired, thirsty, hungry.  The best way to boost this sense is to provide your children with a rhythm to help support this while it is developing.  Some children have great difficulty recognizing their own hunger or thirst cues, their own need for rest or sleep. A rhythm can be a great therapeutic help in this regard.

The Sense of Self-Movement – this is probably more familiar to therapists in some ways as the “proprioceptive system” in some ways.  This sense encompasses the ability to move and hold back movement, and can also encompass such sensory experiences as containment (which can be a form of massage for premature babies) and also swaddling.  Childhood games that involve starting, stopping can also affect this sense.

The Sense of Balance – This is balance in two separate realms, from what I gather from the Daena Ross presentation.  It is not only the ability to balance by use of the semicircular canals of the ears  for midline balance so one can cross midline but also refers to the  balance of life and being able to be centered, which again goes back to rhythm and the idea of in-breath and out-breath.  Donna Simmons calls this one a gateway to The Middle Senses.

The Middle Senses are seen in our feeling lives, involve us reaching out into the world a bit, they are seen as “dreamy” senses and manifesting in the rhythmic system.  THE CHILD HAS NO FILTER TO FILTER THESE SENSORY EXPERIENCES OUT IN THE EARLY YEARS.   In the later years, the arts build these senses, which is why the Waldorf curriculum includes teaching through art in the grades.   These senses  include:

The Sense of Smell -  strongly correlated with memory.  This can be an ally in education of the grades age child, but beware of scented everything when your children are in the foundational first seven years. 

The Sense of Taste – Not only on a physical plane, but an emotional plane in naming experiences (a “putrid” experience, a “sweet” experience)

The Sense of Sight  – with two different ways to visualize something:  one is the ability to distinguish color, and the other is the ability to distinguish form (which Daena Ross says is more related to The Sense of Self-Movement).  The best way to help this sense is to protect the eye from media while developing.  A way to bolster this sense in the grades, but not the Early under 7 Years, is through form drawing.

The Sense of Warmth -   Donna Simmons calls this one a gateway to The Higher Senses.  This sense does not fully develop until age 9 and can literally cause a hardening of creativity and new thought as the child matures, but also can refer to a literal inability of the child to be able to tell if they are hot or cold.  Warmth implies not only physical warmth, but warmth on a soul level.  Joy, humor, love, connection are all important developers of this sense along with PROTECTION from extreme and garish sensory experiences that would cause hardening.  This is a very important sense, and children need help with protecting this sense until the age of 9 or 10, so much longer than many parents think!

The Upper or Higher Senses develop during adolescence and require a strong foundation of The Lower Senses and The Middle Senses to come to maturity.  These senses are associated with awakening of the individual, with being concerned with other people and are seen as being centered in The Head.  These senses include:

The Sense of Hearing (which Daena Ross calls “a bridge between The Middle and Higher Senses” in her presentation)  This requires completion of The Sense of Balance – both of these senses involve the organ of the ear.

The Sense of Speech or The Sense of the Word (this is the speech of another person, not yourself) – Requires completion of The Sense of Self-Movement as you must be able to quiet your own speech in order to really hear another person.

The Sense of Thought or The Sense of Concept (again, of the other person, not your own thoughts!) - Requires completion of  The Sense of Well-Being.  Rhythm builds this ability to quiet oneself in order to hear someone else’s thoughts.

The Sense of  the Individuality of the Other (Donna Simmons also calls this the “I-Thou” relationship of boundaries) – This requires integration and completion of all senses, but particularly involves The Sense of Touch according to Daena Ross. 

The most important take-away point for my parents of children under the age of 7 is that children need rhythm, a balance of in-breath and out-breath and protection of the senses from too much stimulation, from media and boundaries set by the parents to wear clothes (VERY difficult with some little nudists!).  The development of these senses is also profoundly related to sleeping and what occurs during sleep to build all of this up.

Waldorf Education is first and foremost about health and the twelve senses provide a glimpse into some of why things are done in Waldorf the way they are!  I encourage you to investigate the twelve senses on your own.  In this age and day of skyrocketing ADHD/ADD, autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, this should be mandatory learning for all parents. 

With love,

Carrie

Common Toddler Challenges and How to Solve Them

Common Toddler Challenges:

“Into Everything”:

Options:

  • Child-proof, child-proof
  • Model how to explore fragile things with your help and put away
  • Keep less things out, access to art supplies, toys, etc should truly be limited

Your Ideas:

Picky Eating:

Options:

  • Rule out a physical cause; check food allergies and sensitivities
  • Limit high-fat and high-sugar choices, have many healthy choices
  • Look at your child’s food intake over a week, not just one day
  • Have a schedule/rhythm for mealtime and snack time  and sit down with your child to eat in an unhurried manner
  • Serve smaller portions – your child’s stomach is the size of their fist
  • Serve your child’s favorite foods as a side dish to a main meal
  • Do not feel ambivalent about your child’s ability to eat what you serve
  • Allow an option to have toast or cereal for one night a week
  • Try frozen vegetables, such as peas and corn right from the bag or raw veggies with dip if your child is old enough and this is not a choking hazzard
  • Let the kids have a vegetable garden – children often will eat what they have grown
  • Start calling green veggies “brain food”
  • Sneak veggies and fruits into smoothies, or finely grate or chop and mix into foods the child likes
  • Fill a muffin tray or ice cube tray with different healthy kinds of snackable foods that the child can pick from
  • Model good eating yourself – eat a wide variety of foods!

Your Own Ideas:

Poor Sleeper:

  • Rule out physical problems  – many children had reflux when they were younger and are off of medications by the time they are a year or so, do make sure reflux has not reared its head again.  Check www.pager.org for more details regarding gastro-esophageal disease.
  • Educate yourself regarding normal sleep behavior – segmented sleep throughout the night was the norm until the Industrial Revolution
  • Expect disruptions in sleep around change, stresses, developmental milestones
  • Try a more consistent routine during the day calming and soothing techniques for naptime and bedtime
  • Try lots of daytime sunlight and dim the lights after sundown; put your house to sleep after dinner
  • Limit afternoon over-stimulation, be home and have a consistent routine where things are structured around getting ready toward sleep
  • Look at the foods your child eats
  • Hug, sleep, hold your child – parent them to sleep
  • Co-sleep
  • Remember that many toddlers and preschoolers are poised for an early nap and an early (6:30 to 7:30 PM) bedtime – sometimes we just miss the window!
  • Watch out for TV and other media exposure
  • Many normal, health co-sleeping children do not sleep a 7 to 9 hour stretch until they are 3 or 4 years old.

Nurses all the time:

Options:

  • Review normal nursing developmental milestones – 1 and 2 year olds do nurse frequently!
  • Check to see if there are stressors, changes, developmental milestones coming into play
  • Evaluate at what other times your child gets your complete attention
  • Perhaps your child is ready for a more consistent routine, more and varied things to do, more physical activity outside
  • Keep a consistent rhythm to the day and night but varied playthings available
  • Limit your own phone and computer time as this is when many children want to nurse!  LOL!

Your Own Ideas:

Refuses bath:

Options:

  • Use bubble bath, toys
  • If she fears soap in her eyes, use swimming goggles or sun visor
  • Try bath in the morning instead of at night
  • Try a shower
  • Get in tub with child
  • If child fearful of drain, can drain tub after child out of tub or after child  leaves room

Bites adult:

Options:

  • Do not take it personally, do not over-react
  • Most common between 18 months and 2 and a half years
  • Re-direct behavior
  • It is not okay for your child to hurt you!
  • Do not bite for biting!

Your Own Ideas:

Bites other child:

Options:

  • Watch child closely during playtime but realize children of this age do not need many playdates if any at all – limit the exposure and situations you are putting your child in!
  • Give attention to the victim
  • Usually biting stops by age 4

Your Own Ideas:

Slaps faces:

Options:

  • Re-direct behavior
  • Do not hit for hitting
  • Model non-aggression

Your Own Ideas:

Demanding, exacting, easily frustrated

Options:

  • Review normal developmental milestones and behavior
  • Check how many choices you are giving and how many words you are using and use LESS
  • Try to get in a lot of outside time
  • Go back to the basics of rhythm, sleep, warm foods, nourishing simple stories and singing

Your Own Ideas:

Will not get dressed or put on shoes:

Options:

  • Plan ahead and use easy to put on clothing, check for tags, seams
  • Sing a song, look for body parts, dress by a window
  • Dress together
  • Put clothes on when you arrive at destination

Your Own Ideas:

Running Away in Public Places :

Options:

  • Limit the number of public places you take child
  • Bring along a second adult to help if possible

Your Own Ideas:

Temper Tantrums:

  • It is OK to feel angry or frustrated; accept the feeling
  • Look for the triggers – hungry, tired, thirsty, hot/cold, over-stimulated
  • Try to avoid situations that set your child up to fail
  • Give YOURSELF a moment to get centered and calm
  • Remove yourself and child from scene if possible (if a public place)
  • Can get down with child and rub back or head if child will allow,  can just be there
  • Once child has calmed down, can nurse, give him a hug, get a snack or drink
  • If child is mainly upset and gets wants you near but you cannot touch child, consider doing something with your hands to keep that peaceful, centered energy in the room!  Hold the space for your child!
  • Do NOT talk – for most children this just escalates things!
  • If child is okay with being picked up, can go outside for a distraction

Your Own Ideas:

Refuses Car Seat

Options:

  • Let child have a bag of “car toys” that can be played with as soon as seat belt is buckled
  • Have a contest who can get in the fastest
  • Be a policman, fireman, truck driver

Your Own Ideas:

Roughness with Pets:

  • Model gentle behavior for child with pet
  • Child can help do things for pet (but remember, a child younger than 12 does not have the physical and mental capabilities to fully take care of an animal!)
  • Separate pet and child

Your Own Ideas:

Aggressive Behavior:

  • Try to understand need or trigger beneath the behavior
  • Have a rule such as we hit, we sit – Child must sit by you
  • Help the children involved get  their needs met  by structuring turns, etc.
  • If fighting happens with one friend, you may have to have them stop playing
  • together for a time.
  • If the hitting involves a new baby or young sibling, your first goal is to protect the baby
  • Have a “calm chair” or “calm place” with books, drawing materials where everyone can go together until they are calmed down.
  • Your child may need way less playdates, time outside of the home than you think – be very careful and clear that the places you are bringing your child are truly for them and not for you!  If you need times with other mothers, focus on getting bedtime down so you may be able to go out after your child is asleep and have some adult time!

Your Own Ideas:

Separation Anxiety:

  • Do not force your child to jump into situations he is nervous about – allow him to watch from the sidelines for awhile, and respect his choices.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to take small steps toward independence
  • Do not overprotect your child – do not be the hovercraft
  • Acknowledge and respect your child’s feelings
  • Give your child permission to stay with you – “You can stay here as long as you want to, or you can play and come back for a big hug.”
  • Allow the clingyness to run its course – it may be developmentally normal, or it may come out in a time of stress or change
  • Give your child something of yours to hold on to and keep close
  • Reassure your child by being confident you can walk 10 feet from her and it really is OK – If you say, “Don’t worry, I will be right here if you need me” implies there is something to worry about! Try positive, quiet phrases.
  • Again, I truly feel children in the toddler years are NOT meant to be away from their families and that we as a society really push the classes, lessons, independence of this age – Please do be careful the things you are doing are really for your child and not for you and not because “other people are doing it”!

Your Own Ideas:

Tooth Brushing:

Options:

  • Start early
  • Model good dental habits yourself
  • Make it fun – try electric toothbrushes, an egg timer, different kinds of toothpaste
  • Use the dentist as the authority on how many times a day to brush the teeth
  • Talk to the dentist regarding frequency of cleaning, putting sealants on the teeth
  • “Look” for sugar bugs or parts of food from dinner in a playful way, count teeth while brushing

Your Own Ideas:

Resources:

  • Ames, Louise Bates. Your One-Year-Old.
  • Ames. Louise Bates. Your Two-Year-Old.
  • Budd, Linda. Living With the Active Alert Child.
  • Bumgarner, Norma Jane. Mothering Your Nursing Toddler.
  • Cohen, Lawrence. Playful Parenting.
  • Coloroso, Barbara. Kids are Worth It!
  • Dettwyler, Katherine. “Sleeping Through the Night.” http://www.kathydettwyler.org
  • Flower, Hilary. Adventures in Gentle Discipline.
  • Kohn, Alfie. Unconditional Parenting.

As always, take what works for you and your family. Thanks for reading,

Carrie

Tripping Into The Toddler Years

(This post is written more from an attachment parenting perspective).

Toddlerhood IS a time where children have a lot of energy and curiosity, and a time when many parents feel there is a shift in parenting going on – the wants and needs of the toddler are becoming two separate things!

Before you can decide how you want to channel the energy of toddlerhood, it is helpful to know two things: 1. What type of family are you? (this is a determinant in how you perceive and handle typical toddler challenges) and 2. Normal developmental milestones of a toddler ages 12 months to about age 3 and 3.  How do you view guiding your child?  What are your foundational principles?

What Kind of Family Are You??

 

In the  book Kids Are Worth It! Barbara Coloroso defines three types of families:

  1. Brickwall – This type of family has a definitive hierarchy of control with the parents being in charge, has lots of strict rules, a high value on punctuality, cleanliness and order, a rigid enforcement of rules by means of actual or threatened violence, the use of punishment to break the child’s will and spirit, rigid rituals and rote learning, use of humiliation, extensive use of threats and bribes, heavy reliance on competition, learning takes place with no margin for error, love is highly conditional, gender roles are strictly enforced, children are taught what to think but not how to think.
  1. Jellyfish A families – most likely raised in a Brickwall family, this parent is frightened of repeating the abuse he knew, but does not know what to replace it with. So he becomes extremely lax in discipline, sets few or no limits and tends to smother his children. Anything his child wants, his child gets, even if the child’s wants are at the expense of the parent’s own needs. The lack of structure can then lead to a frustrated parent who ends up resorting to threats, bribes, punishments.
  2. Jellyfish B families – May be struggling with personal problems that keep her almost totally centered on herself. No one is around to provide a nurturing, caring, supportive environment.

In both types of Jellyfish families, the following characteristics prevail: Anarchy and chaos in the physical and emotional environment, no recognizable rules or guidelines for the children, arbitrary and inconsistent punishments and rewards are made, mini-lectures and put-downs are the main parenting tools, second chances are arbitrarily given, threats and bribes are frequently used, everything takes place in an environment of chaos, emotions rule the behavior of parents and children, children are taught that love is highly conditional, children are easily led by their peers.

  1. Backbone families – Democracy is a learned experience where children see their feelings and needs are respected and accepted and they also see that it is not always easy to juggle the wants and needs of all members of the family, mistakes are viewed as opportunities to grow, rules are simply and clearly stated, consequences for irresponsible behavior are either natural or reasonable (see attached handout), children are motivated to be all they can be, children receive lots of smiles and hugs, children get second opportunities, children learn to accept their own feelings and to act responsibly on those feelings through a strong sense of self-awareness, competency and cooperation are modeled and encouraged, love is unconditional, children are taught how to think, children are buffered from sexual promiscuity/drug abuse/suicide by three messages: I like myself, I can think for myself, There is no problem so great, it cannot be solved.

Linda Budd, Ph.D., looks at three traits central to all families in her  book “Living With The Active Alert Child”: who’s in charge, what the family values, and how the family handles emotion. She breaks families down into the following categories:

  1. The Closed Family – There is someone clearly in charge, and the others are expected to follow and be obedient. The family values stability. There are many traditions and rituals to create this strong sense of family unity. The family has a hard time with the intensity of emotions. Benefits of this family type include the children growing up with a strong sense of order and feeling secure within the family structure.
  1. The Random Family – Control in this family changes hands frequently- no one person is in charge. This family values freedom, choice, competition, challenge, creative expression. Individuals are valued over the family unit. People in this family express themselves passionately, intensely, authentically. Children in this system have few limits and limited supervision, but their creativity and intensity are confirmed.
  1. The Open Family – The family values equality. Control is cooperative, participatory and persuasive. Consensus is used to make decisions. The family values dialogue, tolerance, adaptability. The family needs are balanced with individual needs. The child is valued as a partner who needs help in discovering her own limits. Parents and child negotiate limits and collaborate in problem solving. Cooperation and responsibility are valued. Children feel as if they have mutual power, and that their feelings are acknowledged.
  1. The Synchronous Family – Control is understood without one person being the source. Control comes from a shared goal or value system, not from an individual. Adults assume children will learn what is correct and what is expected by watching the parents’ example. Emotions are reserved. Children gain a strong sense of security, order and routine.

Food for thought: What kind of family is your family according to either Barbara Coloroso’s or Linda Budd’s structure?

Are you and your significant other different according to Barbara Coloroso or Linda Budd’s structure? What was the family you grew up in like?

NORMAL DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES FOR THE ONE AND TWO-YEAR OLD

Age 12 months – Typically…

Nurses very frequently, almost like a newborn at times

Many mothers pick a code word for nursing at this time

Cannot accept delays or explanations regarding nursing

Heads into period of disorganization (waking up at night, separation anxiety) prior to new developmental milestones.

The drive to stand and walk takes precedence over all other activities

Loves an audience, sociable

Control over feeding is (SHOULD BE) the child’s

Molars coming in; chewing on everything

Very few distinguishable words, points and gestures

Separation and stranger anxiety

Age 15 months – Typically

Still nursing very frequently, almost like a newborn at times

The dash and dart and fling stage

Demanding, tends to grab, cry, scream

May be rather asocial, undemonstrative

Temper tantrums emerge (if they have not already)

Cup and spoon mastery may be happening

Attention span is short but will examine objects with real interest (but for less than 5 minutes)

Age 18 months-Typically

Negativism prevails – wants what he wants, when he wants it

Turns to mother when tired, unhappy

Likes to mimic household activities

Not interested in other children – to large extent ignores them or tries to explore them by poking their eyes, pulling hair

Can play alone

Temper tantrums

Nighttime waking appears with new stresses

Walking may still be a bit uncertain, loves to go up and down stairs, squat, climb into chairs or sofas

Will lug, tug, push, pull, pound things

May run away from parents in public places

Protests violently at separation from parents

Parallel play with peers

May see biting, hair pulling, scratching, hitting toward other people

Play is child’s most powerful way to learn

Age 21 months…Typically…

Can be one of the hardest ages – wants are more definite

May be height of wakefulness at night

Height of taking clothes off and running around naked

Still easily frustrated with lots of temper tantrums

Understand which objects belong to individual family members

Cares about “mine”

Knows where household items belong

Can solve some of their own problems themselves when playing

Age 2 years – Typically

Many still need to nurse often in order to calm themselves, but some children may nurse only around bedtimes and naptimes

Some children can begin to adjust their requests for nursing to places and times that are most comfortable for the whole family

May have difficulty going to bed/falling asleep

Warm, social

Can run little errands within the house

Touches and tastes everything

Uses sentences with verbs and is beginning to use adjectives and adverbs

Parallel play with other children

 

 

Age 2 and a half – Typically

Much improved coordination – can walk on tiptoes, jump with both feet, climb, slide, speed up, slow down, turn corners, make sudden stops

Tense, rigid, explosive, bossy, demanding – (but unsure of himself/environment)

Demands sameness, routine

May stutter, have increased tensional outlets

May have frequent night waking, talking in sleep, night terrors, difficulty going to sleep

Self-feeding with lots of messiness prevails, smearing of food, may throw dishes on floor

May be interested in potty training

Masturbation and genital exploration common

Violent mood shifts – will suddenly become angry and out of control

Can most certainly help around the house

Closer to 3 years old, may get tired easily, easily fatigued, wants to be carried

Interacts with other children but may be in aggressive manner, possessive of his things

Hitting, slapping, pushing, screaming

Suggestions:

Accept need for sameness

Bypass head on confrontations

Divert with conversation

Distract, change the scene

Talk in advance about what will happen

Use music – sing, use verses

Age 3 years – Quick look ahead: Typically..

Can usually go along with your nursing preferences most of the time

Is tranquil, cooperative

Can help set table, prepare simple foods, clean up afterward

Usually potty trained by this point, at least for the daytime

Can be fearful and have phobias

Imagination begins to take fire, may develop imaginary friends

Has a newfound sense of humor and is able to show empathy

Friendships become more important

Will focus completely on one parent and ignore the other and then switch

Help Channel the Energy:

15 to 18 months

Gross motor activity

Loves to swing and bounce up and down (no walkers or such, please!)

Pounding toys, xylophones

Lots of time outside

Remove all breakable objects from reach

Loves to fall on purpose, slide down or bounce down a small slide

Loves to rock on a rocking boat

Loves to push furniture or toys

Two Year Olds-

Water play

Likes routine, imitating grown-up tasks

Play with homemade playdough

Stacking toys

Sand play

Blocks

Enjoys music, rhythmical activity

Acts out their own eating or sleeping

Doll play

Daily walks with opportunity to touch everything

FOUNDATION OF LOVING GUIDANCE

Use the least intrusive strategy for a situation – you will never err by being gentle

Distraction

Remaining calm and being patient is VERY important

Model what you want and set the example

Attribute the best possible motive to your child’s behavior

 

See the positive intent behind your toddler’s behavior,

Carrie

Wonderful Words From Marsha Johnson!

This post is NOT by me, but by Master Waldorf Teacher Marsha Johnson, who lives in the Portland area.  She wrote this wonderful post this morning, I so encourage you to read it carefully, consider it, weigh it in your heart.  Please do go and join her Yahoo!group waldorfhomeeducators.  This is an excellent post, just excellent.  Please read Marsha Johnson’s wise words and enjoy!

“One recurring thread that emerges again and again in the various home schooling groups is the embracing of Info-Mation as Edu-Cation. This is an approach that relies on the passing along of facts and figures to the children, rather like filling up a blank sheet of paper with a long list of data. This kind of education is one that many parents themselves were exposed to as children in lower schools and is yet embraced by many institutions of higher learning.
I have jokingly referred to it as Information Vomitus. Particularly in graduate school, one absorbs mounds of information and must regurgitate it accurately within a time period, and those who can do this are considered ‘smart’.
As a species, some of us just love this habit. We have game shows where we love to quiz people on obscure and odd facts and see who can answer the most questions correctly. There are board games that focus on this aimless ‘art’, like Trivial Pursuit. That name does make me laugh at least the use of the word trivial. Small and meaningless.

As parents, we tend to veer unconsciously towards teaching our children in the way we ‘were taught’. This tendency is really one of the most dangerous and damaging stage in the life of the homeschooling family.

Why do I say this? Because the children of today, the millennial children, the Shining Ones, are very different than the previous generation of children, those born from the 1950s to the 1990s, when the Information Age really began to dominate. The idea was strewn about that one could improve a child’s IQ with exposure to this Factoid Education and that children were really blank slates whose minds could be sharpened and very soon after this time period began we started seeing massive testing of children as large population groups and lo and behold, a lot of stereotyping also began to show up in the statistics. All sorts of rather wicked and demeaning conclusions have been drawn from this kind of erroneous practice.

When we begin to ‘school’ children, and some are so anxious they start right away as soon as Baby can focus her eyes, we reach back into our own educational experiences and most often pull forward this kind of teaching that involves a lot of child sitting-parent speaking.

With a sense of humor here, often the children quickly teach the parent that this kind of education isn’t going to persist for too long. As children are naturally good and sweet and want to make us big people happy, they often accommodate us with love and grace, and put up with quite a bit of this kind of dreary boring presentation.

But some don’t. They rise up and run about and wiggle away, dancing, singing, going outside, done-with-that!, let’s have snack happy attitude that is probably the most logically kind response possible.

The type of education that really fits the developmental stage of the child most closely, from my own point of view, is Waldorf education. Within the very ‘bones’ of Rudolf Steiner’s philosophies we find the most wonderful comprehension of how children are, what children need, and why we must approach the education of the child with an imaginative, artistic technique. A warm and inclusive attitude. A whole-child, integrated program that moves smoothly from moment to moment to create a kind of living-dream, wherein the child floats, soars, rests, and grows.

And this is probably the very opposite of the Info-Mation protocol, which calls mostly on the forces of the nerve-sense pole, the head, the hearing and memory and goes down dry as a desert rock in late summer.

Will you provide an education that inspires your child and yourself? Can you take a subject and find the Alice-In-Wonderland Rabbit Hole that will allow you to enter in a playful and unexpected fashion? How much of the school time is spent sitting and listening, or writing or copying? How much is spent moving, doing, trying, inventing, creating, cooperating, considering, digesting?

I am struck again and again by how passionate and devoted parents can be to a style of learning that would, well, invoke passion and interest in someone 35 years old or older? (smiles here) But a six year old is in his first decade, not the fourth, and taking the dry factual program to this tender age should really be some kind of crime.

Destroying a child’s imagination and tramping through their fairy land of fantasy with the bulldozers of ‘real life’ is actually a crime against childhood. We are surrounded by immense pressure from commercial marketers, manufacturers, media moguls, and those who want to benefit from premature aging. It is unbelievable, a very sophisticated and invisible force to destroy childhood and create an endless period of ‘tween’ and ‘teen’. Did you know the average age of video game players is actually 29 years old? This means there many older and younger right around 30 years of age who devote most of their free time to staring at screens.

One of the easiest ways to judge how a lesson is being received is to keep a close eye on the recipient. Rather than lose your adult self into the lovely land of facts and transmitting these facts, say a few words and watch the child. Allow for pauses and wait a bit. Does the child keep her attention focused on you, do the cheeks pink up, do the eyes sparkle, doe he sit forwards towards you, hanging on your words? Or does she fidget, grow pale, look down or elsewhere, try to rise and leave? Observe the child closely during the day, during play, during rest, during active vigorous exercise. Learn the color patterns of the child’s skin, the facial and body gestures. Configure your lessons in such a way that the child’s response is one of delight, close attention, desire to participate, and shows a healthy age appropriate expression.

Young children naturally move and use their bodies to learn. Incorporate this into each lesson and every day in your home teaching. Sitting is only one of many types of positions that the young child assumes in the natural exploration of the physical world. Adults tend to sit for the vast majority of each day in both work and play. There is much to be gained from moving often and finding physical ways to enhance the learning experiences.

The old saying `give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime’, is a perfect mantra for teaching the young human born in the early 2000s. Consider subject matter from the child’s point of view, figure out what you can do in your lessons that allow the child to use the three elements of self: head, heart, and hands. One of the greatest errors in current educational practice is the sole focus on the head learning, forcing young children to sit at tables for long days, wearying their spirits and graying their outlook. Early academic fatigue syndrome is rampant in our country and fortunately, almost 100 years ago, Rudolf Steiner illuminated a brilliant pathway of education that is more relevant today than ever before. Living artistic age-appropriate lessons, every day, naturally engaging and guaranteed to engender a life long love of learning.

Marsha Johnson, Spring 2009”

Thank you Marsha, for these words that I am holding in my heart,  thank you for being here and sharing with us,

Carrie

Getting Children Into Their Bodies – Part One: Birth to Age 2 and a Half

Steiner looked at the stages of childhood development through seven year cycles.  He further divided the first seven year cycle into three parts consisting of the ages birth through age two and a half, two and  half through age five, and age five to age seven.

Steiner writes about this importance in this passage from “Soul Economy” -(my note: for those of you not familiar with “Steiner – speak”, the ether body refers to the body that maintains your life functions.  It is not visible and is not composed of matter but more encompasses life processes within the body.  When the ether body dies, the result is that the physical body dies as well):

“What children learn during this first two-and-a-half-year period is extremely important for their whole life.  They do so through an incoming activity and from what they have brought with them from prenatal existence.  Just consider how children learn to speak and walk during this first short period.  These are two human faculties that are closely connected with maintaining self-confidence, both from a personal and a social point of view.  These two important faculties are being developed while the ether body is still engaged in shaping the brain and radiating into the rest of the organism.”

One of the principal thoughts for the Early Years from a Waldorf Perspective is that small children under the age of 7 should be in their bodies.  We want to do this not through head oriented commands in the home environment or  the head-oriented verbal commands of organized sports, but through movement couched in fantasy or shown and demonstrated through imitation.

So, without further ado, here are some suggestions. Please take what resonates with you and your family.  The suggestions in this post are certainly not meant as medical advice or meant to substitute for individualized plans formed by you in conjunction with your baby’s doctor or therapist if your baby has developmental challenges.  This post applies to those families with infants who are developing normally, whom do not have medical problems and who were not born prematurely.  For further information regarding a Waldorf approach to children with special needs, please investigate Camphill through this link:  http://www.camphill.org/

For Newborn Babies:  This is not so much about getting your baby into its body, but protecting the baby’s body and the baby’s senses.  Lois Cusick, in her lovely book “The Waldorf Parenting Handbook” ( a great read) says this of the child within the first three years:  “Parents need to defend their helpless child from an over-stimulating environment, from too many sense perceptions.  Their role is to supply a protecting, nourishing nest to replace the safe peace and quiet of the womb.  Quiet, warmth and nourishing mother’s milk are what babies need most when they first enter earth life.”

  • As much as you can, create a calm feeling in your home.   Steiner regarded the first seven year cycle as a time when the child is almost akin to an eye – visual memory dominates.   There are many posts within this blog regarding the creation of rhythm in the home, how to do inner work, and  common marriage and parenting challenges.  Read those and see if they spark any ideas in you!
  • One thing to think about is the baby’s sense of warmth, and while not overdressing the baby, making sure the baby is warm and swaddled if not in your arms or on your body.  Generally, babies under a year should wear hats as well.  Swaddle your baby with the baby’s arms by its mouth to add to further protection of the senses.
  • I know it is not always possible, especially if one has older children, but see if you can avoid taking your newborn to busy supermarkets and stores during the first six weeks.  Try to do without the television and all the blaring noise these boxes provide – I am always amazed when I go into a hospital room to check on a newborn and the whole family is enthralled and listening to some kind of noisy, action-packed show with the newborn baby right there!  It floors me!!  These early weeks deserve to be beautiful with beautiful sounds as well.  So instead of the noisy hustle and bustle of life, try to provide your beautiful baby with soft lullabies and your loving, clear, speech.   Steiner was very clear about no “baby-talk” to a small child, but loving, complex speech with all of its shining words and meanings.  If you can play a lyre or flute, that is lovely as well.
  • Joan Salter writes in her book “The Incarnating Child”, “An upright sling is a real help for a baby with colic, for the warmth of Mother’s or Dad’s body and the vertical position is often the only means of comfort.  But the child does not need to be constantly carried, and in fact, if we observe the child we will see that the natural position for the baby in the first six weeks is the horizontal.”  I do see the wisdom in this statement, the part about the infant’s natural position being horizontal – infants being breastfed certainly spend a lot of time horizontal!    Horizontal, however, by its very nature, does not always mean the baby is on its back.  Breastfeeding usually occurs with the infant in side-lying, and reaching in side-lying is one of the first ways infants often are able to try to reach for an object as gravity is eliminated in this position.  Horizontal can also mean tummy-time.   One way a  young baby can gain the concept of “tummy time” that is so heavily promoted these days (for good reason with the Back to Sleep campaign),  is through laying the baby across mom’s lap for burping or when awake.
  • Your body is the baby’s natural habitat.  Study after study has shown the nervous system of an infant to be regulated by the adult’s body, so please do hold your baby skin to skin!  So, perhaps I disagree a bit with Joan Salter ‘s statement above that babies do not need to be constantly carried in this way:  while I do think it is okay to put your baby down, most babies who are breastfeeding are getting a lot of times in arms with mother  in a horizontal position as they nurse (and this, to me, is nature’s plan!).   If you are feeding your baby with love by another method, please do include a lot of skin to skin time with your baby.  If you are breastfeeding, please quit trying to feed your baby through a tiny triangular-shaped hole of a nursing shirt and nursing bra, and get your baby skin to skin!
  • Things to watch for your baby to do within the first six weeks: see how your infant attains a calm, but alert state; visual fixation on you; visual tracking; auditory orientation (turning to sounds out of visual range); and typical  newborn reflexes.   Newborn development begins with the mouth and the eyes, so pay special attention to these two sense organs.

For Babies Who Are Not Yet Crawling  (About Six Weeks to Six or Seven Months):

  • Yes, I am going to keep saying this in every section:  Make your home the most peaceful place to be that you can.  In “The Incarnating Child” by Joan Salter, she quotes Willi Aeppli from the book The Care and Development of the Human Senses saying, “The power of thinking and of judgment which is not yet in existence cannot form a protective dam against the storming in of sense impressions.  Consequently the child is exposed with his whole body to these impressions in quite a different way, in a far more direct way than at a later age.  All sense-perceptions go deeply into the organism and leave their impressions there…”  The young infant and child needs to be surrounded with perceptions that are good, warm, kind, joyful.
  • Your baby is now physically developing from the head down toward the feet, so pay special attention to these areas, as well as the development  of  hand-eye coordination and reaching.
  • Singing and fingerplays (and toeplays!) are so important!  Talk to your baby without baby talk, but do provide a language-rich environment through singing and verses.
  • When your baby is awake provide lots of time to wiggle and move those arms and legs.
  • Do let your child nap outside if your climate and weather is suitable for that; it is a wonderful way to get your baby connected with nature.  Sit outside with your baby and other children and breathe in with all your senses.   Joan Salter writes in “The Incarnating Child”:  “A well-loved garden is much more than merely a collection of plants.  It has an atmosphere that speaks to the child, and often a restless baby will be calmed by being out of doors in such a place.  To sleep in the garden for an hour or so, or just be there watching and listening, absorbing what Wise Mother Nature has to offer, is a helpful and healthy experience for a child from about two months of age onward.”
  • Much has been written on the subject of sleep, but hopefully during this time you are moving toward more rhythmical nap patterns and bedtime patterns; it is very important that you work toward this with your baby.  If you have a high-needs baby, who by their very nature seems to be irregular and without rhythm, it is even more important that you help them work towards what they cannot do themselves.
  • As an infant moves toward crawling, a parents must be very  patient and also have a rather well-baby-proofed house!

For Babies Who Are Crawling, Pulling to Stand and Learning to Walk (About Six or Seven Months to One Year of Age):

  • Make your home the most peaceful, happy place it can be.
  • Work toward a rhythm of breastfeeding, eating, play, sleeping.  Not a fixed, rigid schedule, but a rhythm.
  • Keep the quality of warmth in mind – babies under the age of one need to wear warm clothes, hats on their bald heads!
  • Joan Salter writes in her book “The Incarnating Child”:  “After about six months of age, other senses start to become more dominant.  The child begins to take in the world more strongly through the eyes and ears….This brings us to the immense importance of visual and auditory sense impressions”  Be a wonderful source of right thoughts, right speech and right action for your child to see and imitate.
  • Get into the habit of starting to use songs and verse for transition times within your day; this will become valuable for toddlerhood.
  • Infants learning to walk need times to practice their sense of balance safely; infant walkers or baby bouncers that hang in the doorway are not appropriate developmental tools for this population. If your child is a normal, healthy developing child, they may not need your coaxing or helping or forcing.  They do need practice and imitation.
  • Once the child is able to walk, he or she may have soft knitted animals or wooden animals as per Joan Salter’s “The Incarnating Child”, page 96.
  • Stranger anxiety may occur during this time period, it is common, and not a sign anything is amiss.

For Toddlers (About a Year or a Year and A Half to Two and A Half Years of Age):

  • Once a child can walk and keep his or her balance, the arms and hands are freed.  Bronja Zahlingen comments in the article, “Movement, Gesture and Language in the Life of the Young Child”:  “This is truly unique to the human being, for the animal, still bound to its physical organization, must utilize its front limbs entirely to serve its body – they must carry and nourish it.  We human beings can perform many different kinds of work. We can work with our hands as artists, we can wave and threaten, give and take, pray and bless.”
  • Gesture and the use of gesture precedes talking from a Waldorf perspective.  This also makes sense from a therapy perspective, since therapists know one must have sufficient muscle tone and muscle control in order to produce speech sounds and a good quality of speech.  Learning to talk is a major part of this time period.  Rahima Baldwin Dancy states in her book “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher:  What Parents Can Do With and For Their Children from Birth Until Age Six”:  “But around a year and a half, children’s language abilities explode, so that most start acquiring new words at the phenomenal rate of one every two hours.  By their second birthdays, most children have mastered 1,000 to 2,000 words and have started stringing two words together.”  Clearly, receptive language ability is developed long before expressive ability.    Steiner viewed mastery of a native tongue as a prerequisite to thinking – we think because we have language.  Whole sentences may appear between ages two and three, according to “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher.”
  • Human speech is looked upon as having three parts by anthroposophists: saying (a one word sentence); naming (dog, cookie); and finally talking (which begins a me-you kind of dialogue with others).  Watch your child for these words and speech development.
  • For speech development, it is so important you talk to your child through song, verses, telling stories of simple sentences that you make up.  Some mothers become great talkers to their children, but then have difficulty slowing this down later on.  Think about what you are actually saying to your child before you just prattle on and on!
  • Early in this year, the child may be ready for a very simple doll of unfinished features.  The doll should be soft to cuddle.  Joan Salter writes in “The Incarnating Child”: “As the child grows, the doll will become a friend to be talked to, told secrets, taken for outings and so on.  It is a first step in developing later relationships.”

For Children of All Ages-

Most of all, protect your small child from overstimulation.

Look at the visual things of beauty in the home, and how your own face is the most beautiful toy to a baby.

Think about the sense of touch and to bring different safe tactile experiences to your small child.

Think about how to bring lovely speech, songs and verses into your home.

Think about pets, gardening experiences and how to get outside in nature.

Give your child lots of chances to practice wiggling their limbs, moving to sit, manipulating objects with their hands,  crawling, balancing while walking on an even surface first and then uneven surfaces.

Let your child work with pouring water, playing with sand and dirt (supervise carefully that they don’t eat all the sand and dirt, of course).

These are just a few thoughts from a Waldorf perspective regarding childhood development and what you should be doing with your child to develop these things.

Verses and Songs Throughout the Day

Many Waldorf mothers lament that while they know they should not use head-oriented commands with small children under the age of seven, they just are not sure how to get through the day without doing this.  One way to think about this is how you could use songs and verses throughout your day for transition points.  For example, instead of announcing all day long, “Now, little Jimmy, we are going to do XYZ”, you have a wonderful song or melody to do this that accompanies YOU starting to DO the physical activity.  (Having small children is not to be directed from the sofa!!)  Once you use the same song or verse for the same activity over and over, the child recognizes what goes with what melody. 

I kept track the other day, and here are some of the ones I use with my family that we enjoy, and maybe this will give you some ideas for your own family!  You will find the songs and verses that work for you!

For waking up in the morning, while I go around and open all the window shades:  The song “Good morning, good morning and how do you do?”  and also the song “Buenos Dias, Buenos Dias, como estas, como estas?”  (sung to the tune of “Where is Thumpkin?”)

For making beds:   The song “This is the way we make the beds, make the beds, make the beds, this is way we make the beds on a “XXXXXX” morning.”

For calling to breakfast and lunch – We sing the prayer “Thou Art Great and Thou Art Good”  from Shea Darien’s book Seven Times the Sun.

For washing dishes:  The song “This the way we wash the dishes, wash the dishes, wash the dishes” as above

For getting dressed:  The nursery rhyme Diddle Diddle Dumpling, My Son John

(I also make up songs sometimes for going potty, brushing teeth or brushing hair).

For being called to start homeschool:  I always call children with a made- up tune on the pennywhistle and then play whatever song is the song of the month.  For example, in November I played “The Pumpkin Pie” song and my kids learned it and sung it for everyone after Thanksgiving dinner while I played.  For this month we are learning the song from the play “The Snowmaiden” from “Little Plays for Puppets” book and also a song about dwarves.  After singing we have a candle-lighting verse and we also use the well-known  Waldorf verse that begins, “Good Morning Dear Earth, Good Morning Dear Sun.”

For quiet time:  We sing one of the quiet songs out of Shea Darien’s book Seven Times the Sun

For ending quiet time:  We use that wonderful folk song that begins, “Bluebird, bluebird (or whatever bird you want!)  fly through my window, bluebird, bluebird, fly through my window.”  It is on Pete Seeger’s CD of folk songs

Favorite verse for going outside:  The nursery rhyme that begins, “The grand old Duke of York, he had ten thousand men, he marched them up a hill and then he marched him down again.”

For practical work, I do have verses for wet on wet watercolor painting, baking, handwork, gardening and housekeeping that can be found in A Child’s Seasonal Treasury,

For dinner we rotate between these two prayers: 

Father, we thank thee for this food before us

Give us strength to do Thy Will

Guide and Protect Us in Your Heavenly Path

For Christ’s Sake, Amen.

or this one:

Bless this food to our use

And us to thy (continued) service

And make us ever mindful of thy blessings

Amen.

For Bathtime- Rub a Dub Dub, Three Men in a Tub

For Bedtime- Prayers (we say four prayers at night)

First we say “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep”

Then we say this one:

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,

Bless this bed that we lie on,

Two at our head, two at our feet,

Protect us (bless us) while we are fast asleep.

Then we say a quick prayer to the archangels of St. Raphael, St. Gabriel, St. Michael and St. Uriel, (and we list what we are thankful for from the day)

And then at last we say “Our Father Who Art in Heaven”.

This is just a small sampling, and you can come up with traditional verses, songs and prayers that speak to your own spiritual/religious life.   I also make up many songs on the spot and sing.  My oldest thinks my voice is beautiful, which I assure you it is not, but the point is you do not have to be a great singer to do this!!  It is great fun, the kids learn all of this by heart easily, and it is so much better than walking around like a play-by-play football announcer each day.

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.