Talking In Pictures To Small Children

A small child under the age of seven needs to hear you paint a picture with your words instead of a direct command.  This can really be a very difficult thing for us to do as adults, and as such we find ourselves barking commands (politely, of course :)) at our small children all day long.  “Come to breakfast!”  “Use the potty!”  “Get your shoes on!” “Now please!”  “Stop doing that!”  Even if we frame things positively and say what we do want, the point is that a million times a day we are asking our child to do something.  And when we only use a command, we are essentially giving the small child a chance to think, a chance to decide their behavior, and then we get angry when they don’t do what we want when we want it.  How funny how that goes.

Small children are often in a fantasy, imaginative world much of the day as they play and create games.  They are not adults, they do not view time as adults do, they do not have the sense of urgency that you do.  And nor should they.

A small child lives in the physical realm and in their bodies.  So, to most effectively parent, we must reach to that for the small child as often as possible instead of playing commander, or worse yet, trying to drive the car with our horn by yelling at the small child. 

Here are some examples:

  • Think of animals that involve what you need.  Can the child hop like a bunny, run as fast as a roadrunner bird, swim like a fish?  Can they open their big  crocodile mouths to have all those teeth brushed?  Can you be a bear that needs a big winter coat ?  (And as you say this, you help put the child’s arm into the coat)….It is the imaginative movement plus the physical piece that gets it all done.
  • Can you involve their dolls or their imaginary friends?   Quietly take their favorite doll and start to get it ready for bed and sing to the doll. “ You and Tim (the imaginary friend) can sit right for dinner “( and lead the child by the hand to the table).
  • Can you employ gnomes, fairies, giants, leprechuans?  Today a four- year- old and I looked for leprechuan shoes by my back door….  Oh, look at these leprechuan shoes sitting here, do these fit YOU?  Oh my, look at the turned up toes on your shoes, I wonder if those shoes will lead you to a pot of gold!  How about gnomes exploring the mouth cave for teeth brushing?  Big giant steps to settle into a big giant bed?

You do not have to do this to the point where it is tiring to you, but do try here and there, because I find most parents employ very little imagination with their children during the day and the children really do respond to it well and do just what needs to happen.

Your part though, is to plan enough time so things are NOT rushed.  Rushing is the death of imagination and the beginning of stress.  Please plan ahead! 

Also, rhythm is your friend.  It is in that space to help you and your child.  If you do something different every night to get ready for a meal, to get ready for bed, what cues does your child have for when things are going to happen?  Again, their sense of time and urgency is not that of an adult.  Also, please seriously evaluate how many places you are dragging a small child.  Are these places for them or errands and would your child just rather be home?   I am just asking you to consider this piece of the puzzle; only you know the answer for you and your family. 

The last piece is the physical end of it, DOING something with a child whilst using the imagination and movement goes much better!  Yes, it is tiring that that is what small children need.  But better to do that than to complain and moan and groan that your small child, who is perfectly  normal, is “not listening”. :)

Try it out, I think you will find life to be much easier. 

Many blessings,

Carrie

More About Starting Solids

“Around the globe, a variety of foods are used as baby’s first solid food.  In Oceania babies are given pre-chewed fish, grubs, and liver.  The Polynesians prefer a pudding-like mixture of breadfruit and coconut cream.  Inuit babies are started on seaweed and seal blubber, while Japanese healthcare providers recommend a thin rice porridge, eventually made thicker and topped with dried fish, tuna, tofu, and mashed pumpkin.”

-from page 32 of Cynthia Lair’s excellent book “Feeding the Whole Family:  Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents”  —(I highly recommend this book, it is about cooking once for    everyone and what to do from your meal for baby.  Here is the Amazon link:   http://www.amazon.com/Feeding-Whole-Family-Cooking-Foods/dp/157061525X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1269912175&sr=1-1

These are some recommendations for what solid foods to bring in when according to Ruth Yaron’s “Super Baby Food” book and “Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine” by Gabriel Cousens.  I suggest you look at these books for yourself and see what resonates.  The listings here are NOT to be taken as medical advice, just ideas from what others have said.  If you have ANY history of food allergies, food sensitivities, it is always good to talk to your pediatrician before introducing those foods.  Go slow and introduce things one at a time before you combine food.

Also, this is a pretty vegetarian list, so you  will have to decide how you feel about meat and where that goes.  This list also includes homemade  grains, which many families delay.  Families may start with pureed food and around eleven months when children are more adept at picking up foods move to that.  Some families wait on solids a bit and the infant self feeds from the beginning.  La Leche League typically recommends making eating solids your infant’s own  project.  As far as amounts,  Cynthia Lair notes in her book, “Babies who have been eating solids for several months can be served about one-third to one-half cup of food at a sitting.”  Ruth Yaron’s book has many suggestions as well.  Please do take what resonates with you about this and do what works best for you and your family. 

Check this back post regarding signs for readiness to eat solids and other suggestions: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/11/starting-solids-with-your-infant-and-picky-toddler-eating/

More articles of interest:

http://www.llli.org/FAQ/solids.html

http://www.llli.org/NB/NBsolids.html

About raising a vegetarian child:

http://www.llli.org/NB/NBJulAug00p131.html

First foods:

Fresh Young coconut water, banana, ripe avocado, sweet potato,  peeled and cooked/pureed apples or pears

Six months and older:

Single grain homemade cereal: brown rice, millet; winter squash; cooked and strained apricots, peaches, pears, plums, nectarines, prunes and raw mild fruit: papaya, mango, pears;

** Carrie’s note:  I am not sure how I feel about mango; mangoes are related to the cashew family, so if that is an allergy in your family, ask your physician before introducing

Seven months and older:

Coconut pulp blended with water, homemade mixed grain cereal; hard cooked egg YOLK only ; peaches; cooked and pureed asparagus, carrots, green beans, peas, summer squash, white potatoes; diluted and strained mild fruit juices: apple, apricot, pear, grape, papaya, peach, prune,

** Carrie’s note:  Eggs can be a major allergen

Eight months and older:

Tahini; ground nuts (almonds, pistachios are mentioned by Gabriel Cousens); ground seeds (sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp, chia); brewer’s yeast; powdered kelp in tiny amounts;; apricot; apple; cantaloupe; honeydew; kiwi fruit; plums; watermelon; broccoli; okra; cooked parsley; peeled and quartered grapes; finger foods (I am going to use freeze dried fruits), peeled figs, pitted cherries is mentioned by Gabriel Cousens,

**Carrie’s note:  Nuts and seeds can be major allergens; tahini is made from sesame seeds so if that is an allergen, ask your physician before introducing

Nine months and older:

Dried beans, lentils, split peas ground and cooked; pineapple; Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, spinach, beets, kale, eggplant, rhubarb, turnips, finely chopped raw parsley, cooked greens, cooked onion,  summer squash, turnips and rutabaga, rhubarb,  celery, buckwheat, sea vegetables  (Carrie’s note: Usually sea vegetables are given in one teaspoon or less amounts)

**Some families do whole milk  yogurt here; I think that depends how you feel about dairy

Ten months and older:

Thinned creamy nut butters; homemade bulgur cereal; homemade whole grain cornmeal cereal; whole grain pasta; ground sprouts; finely grated raw summer squash, carrots, greens, sweet peppers

**Carrie’s note:  Nuts can be a major allergen, so ask your physician if this is a concern in your family

Older than one year:

Dairy, citrus, tomatoes, hard cooked egg white,  strawberries, blueberries, and other berries cut into pieces (not whole)  Carrie’s note – these all  have allergen potential.  Go slow!

Happy Eating!  If you would like to help other mothers out and write when you have introduced some of the foods not likely to be found in typical baby books, please leave a comment below..

Carrie

“Discipline Without Distress”: Discipline Tools for Toddlers 1-2 Years: Action

Judy Arnall starts this chapter with this observation that I  see all the time, “Parents believe if they don’t nip many behaviors in the bud at this stage, the behaviors will grow and become monstrous later on and their children will be destined to become criminals because they were too lenient when they were toddlers.  NOT TRUE!”

The toddler stage does not involve reasoning.  There is no reasoning yet.  Toddlers are just realizing they can’t always get what they want, and this leads to temper tantrums.  Your toddler is “doing” and the best you can do as a parent is to childproof, supervise, redirect, distract, provide substitutions, pick up your toddler and move them around with your gentle hands away from danger or situations that they shouldn’t be into. 

Toddlers can sometimes follow two word commands.  On this blog, I write from a traditional perspective and also a Waldorf perspective.  The Waldorf perspective on this would be to engage the child’s body and not expect a tiny child to follow a verbal command only.  You cannot parent a toddler from the couch. :)  GET UP!

A toddler is going to express negativity. “ No”  has power, “no”  has meaning.  Toddlers often use their body to express their negativity – hitting, biting, pushing – because their words are not totally there yet.  Even the ones that are “verbally” advanced lose their words when they become upset!  They want to be independent (the “me do it” stage), but still need help.  They don’t play with other children yet, they have fears of things such as thunder or animals or vacuum cleaners.  Their thinking really is “this is here, this is now” without much  memory involved.  They do, however,  IMITATE what YOU do!

Saying no frequently is not helpful in guiding your child – tell them what you would like to see, and better yet, SHOW THEM.   Childproof your environment so you don’t have to say NO fifty times a day.  Also, Judy Arnall points out that “parents have no control over eating, sleeping, toileting, and learning.  The parent can facilitate those processes, but not force them.”  This is something important for a parent to come to grips with.

She lists a page of discipline tools for toddlers including staying with your no, changing the environment, planning ahead, having routines, holding and carrying and restraining the child as needed, giving encouragement, ignoring some things if you can, time-in (see my take on “Time In for Tinies” here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/12/more-about-time-in-for-tinies/  ), saying no another way, letting the child have their feelings (my note is that you can’t “fix” how another person feels!  Let them have their feelings!), supervision, parent time-outs, modeling, redirection, holding, hugs and many more tips. 

The author recommends anticipating problems ahead of time and planning ahead.  She also says “avoid play places if you know they get frustrated and hit other children.”  Provide toys whilst changing a diaper or change the diaper standing up or in front of a mirror.  She talks extensively about the fact that toddlers love routines, and also gives examples of some “routines” that small children can do – for example, hanging towels after taking a bath, putting clothes in the basket, everyone carrying their things in from the car.  Essentially, you are laying down the house rules and chores that will become embedded in the existence of a three and four year old.  A three and four year old really knows and understands how things work in your house!

Judy Arnall has sections in this chapter regarding toilet learning, handling emotion, toddler sleep problems, why toddlers don’t understand rules, separation anxiety and how to deal with it, picky eating, toddler aggression and tips for handling this….Another great chapter!

This book deserves a home on your shelf!  Check out Amazon for a copy!

Many blessings,

Carrie

“Discipline Without Distress”: Tools for Discipline of Infants

Yes, we are still going through this book!  I am looking forward to getting through to the end of it, though, because I have another book I really want to delve into on this blog (a surprise! :))

Today’s chapter is Chapter 7:  Discipline Tools for Baby 0-1 Years:  Attachment.  It seems difficult to some of us that we need to even discuss “discipline” of this first year of life, but since a 1994 Canadian study showed that 19 percent of US mothers spanked their children under one year of age, I guess that we must address this.  There is also an attitude, at least here in the United States, that an older  baby could be “manipulating” a mother by his or her behavior  (this one baffles me, but I hear it a lot in mainstream parenting circles, so I thought I would throw it out there!).

Author Judy Arnall writes:  “We discuss discipline tools with a baby for two reasons.  First, the baby year is a time for bonding, attachment and relationship connection; a solid concrete foundation that effective discipline is built upon.  Also, the literal interpretation of the word “discipline” means to teach.  We “teach” babies from the moment they are born, by our responsiveness and nurturing, that they are loved and cared for.” 

An older baby is  mobile and yes, often  “getting into things”.  They are gross motor driven.  They cry and fuss to make their needs known.  They may cry and you may not be able to uncover the reason at all.  They sleep, they make a lot of noise (screeching, gurgling, cooing, babbling, repetitive syllables).  They look at things, they explore things and put things in their mouth to taste them and explore them.  They also  IMITATE YOU.

Judy Arnall also reminds us of the stranger anxiety many babies experience at around eight months (usually 8 to 15 months or so).  Do not expect your baby to be happy to go to and with just anyone!  Ten months is the beginning of separation anxiety and they do not want to leave their main caregiver.  Separation anxiety can last throughout the early years, the baby has an intense need for his or her mother throughout those years.  If you meet his needs to be dependent upon you, he will feel much more secure!

The best discipline tools for a baby are BEING RESPONSIVE when a baby cries, to hold, sing, speak, love your baby with gentle words and gentle hands.  Author Judy Arnall lists the discipline tools for babies as being PARENT time-out, fulfill the baby’s needs, learn about child development, substitution,  supervision, prevention, redirection, change environment, distraction, spending time together, parenting problem-solving, holding, hugs and cuddles.  She also adds using active listening and I-statements.  I guess these tools could sound very radical to a parent who has never heard of them or knows no other ways.  Sometimes these things don’t actually come naturally to parents.  This chapter gives great examples of each of these things.

One thing the author reminds us is that up until age TEN, children need constant supervision by an adult who is engaged with them.  She also writes about the importance of prevention:   if your child is doing something due to a developmental phase, have a plan as to how you will respond to it in the future.  She talks about saying positive things to your baby, such as “I love you!” “I am so glad you are mine!”  I like that idea of that warmth and  joy and love!  So, stop complaining and replace those complaints with positive thinking and positive things to say to your child!

She writes an entire section on sleep issues and how a one-year-old has a very limited memory and almost no cognitive reasoning skills so therefore a baby cannot “manipulate” you regarding sleep.  She writes about the dangers of “crying it out” which I whole heartedly agree with.  She also writes strongly about how the first three years of a child’s life as critical for developing trust in an adult caregiver, and how it is important to respond to your child.  This is important, even at night!  Parenting does not stop at nighttime!

She asks readers to “reconsider co-sleeping” and talks about how to make a safer family bed.  I completely endorse co-sleeping if that works for your family and have written a post about it here a long time ago:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/16/co-sleeping-and-nighttime-parenting/ .  The Dr. Sears books also talk in depth about co-sleeping.  Co-sleeping does not always mean sharing a sleep surface.  For example,  it can also mean a sidecar approach with a crib or co-sleeper, or putting your king sized mattress on the floor so no one can roll off or having a bed in your room for your children.   There are many tips for safer co-sleeping on the Mothering Magazine website, Dr. Sears website (here is just one example of talking about safer cosleeping on the Sears Family website:  http://www.askdrsears.com/html/10/t102200.asp)  and in many books.  Check it out and devise a plan that works for your baby and for your family.   

This chapter talks about many ways to soothe a crying baby – go through your mini-checklist:  illness, food, diaper, gas, clothing tags, too hot/too cold, is the baby just waking up and really needs to go back to sleep?, try motion, try white noise, try babywearing, swaddling, rocking, humming, check and see if baby is overstimulated and really just needs a dim, quiet place to calm down. 

She talks about colic, about parents taking a time out, about parental actions that build a child’s sense of security.  She has a whole section on marriage and  how having a baby affects marriage and tips for that season in marriage. 

I recommend this book over and over, and over.  Here is the Amazon link:  http://www.amazon.com/Discipline-Without-Distress-responsible-punishment/dp/0978050908/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1269482616&sr=8-1

Much love,

Carrie

The Peaceful Baby in March: Sleep (Part Two)

AN URGENT NEED FOR SLEEP: 

What if sleep for the family is really an emergency situation though?  There can be a darker side to all of this  if a mother is truly sleep deprived! 

I just have to say a brief word about  letting a baby “cry-it-out.”    First of all, there are  NO scientific studies that back up “crying it out”.  I have a wonderful article written by Macall Gordon that was published in Attachment Parenting International’s newsletter some years ago called, “The Dark Side of Sleeping Through the Night:  Four Big Reasons Why Crying-It-Out Doesn’t Make Sense.” This article is really fabulous, but I could not find it on-line at all, maybe someone else will be able to locate this article and post the link in the comment box.  At any rate, the first reason in this article is that “crying-it-out” is that it is  not supported by research at all.  In fact, as a pediatric physical therapist, I know that crying causes immune function to go down and cortisol (a stress hormone) to rise.  Why doesn’t anyone bother to  mention that in connection with “crying-it-out”?  The other issue I have with this, this time with my IBCLC hat on, is that mothers are biologically programmed through hormones and  through lactation to pick their babies up!  Why doesn’t anyone talk about that and the biological impulses we try to make mothers override by not validating their own biology?   From an attachment stand-point, and for future psychological health, for the future of the entire process of discipline and guiding child,  the entire first year is about an infant building up trust in a caregiver.   How does “crying-it-out” not harm this?   There are a multitude of other reasons that “crying-it-out” is just plain harmful! 

People who talk about an infant “playing you” or “manipulating you” at an early age over sleep have absolutely NO understanding of the biological or emotional  development of the child.  It is unfortunate. 

If you need someone to talk to, vent to, or ask about realistic sleep expectations,  please, please pick up the phone and call your local La Leche League Leader or Attachment Parenting Leader.  La Leche League even has a hotline now!  Call and talk to someone!

If you have an urgent need for sleep, the families I have worked with in the past have treated this as REAL.  It is urgent, it is as real as being sick!   We cannot be the mother we want to be when we are completely sleep-deprived!   Vacation time may need to be used so one can sleep and have another person at home to care for the infant.  A family member may need to come visit, or friends may need to come and help.  Our society can be such a disconnected one, and it can be so challenging to reach out to people and ask for help.  Yet, people are typically so willing to help. Other mothers have been there, and  they really do understand!

Make a plan for how you can figure this out.  Can  you sleep when the infant does?  What are doing that is more important than sleep?  Can someone help you with your other children so you can take your infant to bed and rest?  Can you all lay down together and rest?  Can you strip a room of dangerous-to-toddler items, lock the door with all of you in this room and rest? 

What can you do to help your child enter sleep more easily and rhythmically?  The first post in this two-part series had some suggestions for babies who really don’t sleep well, but I suppose the suggestions could be useful for anyone.

Children need a rhythm leading up to sleep or rest to help them wind-down.  How you do this in your family is up to you.  Some families have used a warm, calm bath.  Some have used reading books in that special nighttime/resting reading voice (which is different than the dramatic daytime voice!!).  Some families have used rocking, nursing, massage, foot massages, holding as parts of the bedtime routine.  How about singing lullabies?

Infants and children DO need to be parented to sleep.  Even an eight year old or nine year old likes being read to or to have a conversation before they go to sleep!  So, how you parent your child to sleep in your family is up to you as you are the expert on your own family!  All I would say is that if you are waiting to the point where your children fight through the bedtime routine or are completely wound-up, you may be starting too late.  Try earlier and see if that makes a difference.  

People ask me about co-sleeping and when their child will go into their own bed/sleeping surface. …. I remember one especially sweet nurse (an adult, obviously!)  I worked with and we were talking about this subject years ago and she said, “You know what?  When I go home and visit my mamma, I LOVE to jump into her bed.  It smells like her, and I miss seeing her!”  I loved that, the association of comfort and wanting to be near our mothers, even when we are adults.  I have seen some children take happily to their own bedrooms around two and a half or three and I have seen others do it more around the seven-year-change…Some children will still want to co-sleep when they have a nightmare, when they are getting teeth, when they don’t feel well, on special nights when they are so excited for the next day.  Warmth and love at its finest!

FROM A WALDORF POINT OF VIEW:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/13/a-waldorf-inspired-view-of-sleep/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/14/part-two-of-a-waldorf-inspired-view-of-sleep/

People ask me about sleep from an anthroposophic point of view, and the above posts are a great place to start.  The one thing I would like to add is that from an anthroposophic viewpoint, the small child is developing a relationship to time.  Modern medical studies confirm this in many regards; some studies I have read state that it can take up to 40 weeks in order to for an infant to have days/nights straightened out well.

Please do think of rhythm and routines leading up to nap/rest times and bedtimes as your friend.  I think it is important to guide our children in this regard, and to just not wait until they fall over from sheer exhaustion after they have been completely wound up!

All food for thought; as usual take what resonates with you for you and your family!

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Peaceful Baby in March: Sleep (Part One)

I have had three local mothers in my over twelve years of parenting counseling who had babies under the age of six months who truly did not sleep.  It was very difficult.   All three cases were very active little girl babies who had a difficult time gaining weight, and once they became mobile older babies/toddlers they were so active that no one other than the mother could seem to watch the baby without the child ending up on the top of refrigerator,etc.  They were also toddler  masters of getting through baby locks and other child-proofing devices.  Whew!

I would like to go over a few points regarding sleep for these types of babies and then children in general. 

For babies under the age of 6 months who “don’t sleep”:

1.  Realistic expectations are key.  Know that there will be times they don’t sleep well due to teething and other developmental stages.  Also, how many hours a day are you expecting them to sleep?  Babies need time to be outside, time to play on the floor as well as the older babies.  They can also be a passive witness to what you are doing from the viewpoint of a sling.  Some babies also sleep very well in a sling.

I am sure many of you have seen “the sleep table” in “The No-Cry Sleep Solution” – there are things in this book that I vehemently disagree with, but I like the sleep table :)  It details the number of hours each day infants of different ages sleep, how many naps a day of different ages take and how long those typical naps are.  For example:  a six-month old is typically taking two naps a day for a total of 3-4 hours and sleeping 10-11 hours at night for a total of 14-15 hours whereas a 2 year old is typically taking one nap a day for one to two hours and sleeping around 12 hours at night for a total of 11 hours of sleep. 

2.  Biologically, we do not want babies to enter a deep sleep and “sleep soundly” though the night at an early age because 1.  this decreases calories for most breastfeeding babies;  studies have shown even babies at 10 months can receive up to 25 percent of their calories at night if mothers will still nurse their babies at night.  2.  not breastfeeding at night increases the chance of you getting your menstrual cycle back at night and takes away natural child spacing and  3.  the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is highest between 2 to 5 months, so we don’t want deep sleeping then.  We want arousal out of sleep here and there to keep our babies breathing.

Please see these back posts regarding sleep and co-sleeping:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/25/the-early-bedtime/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/18/peaceful-bedtime-dreams/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/16/co-sleeping-and-nighttime-parenting/

3.  For a baby under 6 months who is not sleeping well, but in a developmental plateau, not getting sick, and not teething, please check yourself. How anxious are you about them not sleeping?  Babies pick up on your anxiety! 

4.  Check warmth.  I find babies who are like this, and who are not gaining weight well,  are often actually  cold.  Check these back posts on warmth:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/06/warmth-strength-and-freedom-by-mary-kelly-sutton/

5. Check for food allergies and sensitivities, reflux and colic.  There have been some studies showing a positive resolution of colic with care from a qualified pediatric chiropractor; this may be worth a try.  For reflux, try www.pager.org

6.  As these children grow, I think it is VERY, very important to institute quiet activities with active ones, and yes, periods of rest.  We have had several posts in the past regarding “quiet time” that were hot debate.  You can see those here:      and here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/23/more-about-quiet-time/

Some of these children, particularly when small, will not just go and lay down at a rest time.  But it is worth it to all lay down together, to read a book or light a candle and snuggle together for storytelling.  That break is important. 

It is also important to note, I think, that these children NEED time in nature.  That may be only time they actually slow down and get involved in digging in the dirt or other really rhythmical activity that really transports them to a quieter place.

In the next part of this, we will look at what to do when sleep for the whole family is an urgent need, and also a Waldorf view of sleep!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Beyond The Forty Days: What Next?

I have written some blog posts in the past regarding the forty days after birth as a time to be easy on oneself, a time to be with one’s baby.  Then, you may ask, what happens after the forty days are finished and people expect you to be “normal” and “back to your old self” ?

I had a friend the other day tell me she thought the time when a baby was  between two to four months old was actually very challenging, because people stop coming over to visit.  They stop bringing you meals.  People expect your older children to get places and participate in things.  Meanwhile, you are juggling a baby who is perhaps already starting to get teeth and who is not sleeping well or juggling a baby who is not sleeping well because he or she is doing new things developmentally. 

But  there are still  those moments to drink in and savor.  Those first smiles and laughter.  Those dimpled cheeks and chubby thighs.  The first time they roll over.  The way they wave their hands and feet when you sing to them.

Sometimes, with parenting, all you can do is hold on. Enjoy those wonderful moments, learn to ask for help when you need it, learn to seek out the company of people who parent like you as you find your own path.  And the path will change as you get older, because you are still growing and evolving, and the path will change the more children you have because children are all different and have different things to teach us.  And so we learn and we grow with our babies.

But, we can never err on the side of being gentle.  We can never err on the side of bringing light to our family.  We can never err by seeking out and becoming a part of a supportive community of  mothers and parents.  We can never err by choosing a path mindfully, even as we give ourselves leeway to do things differently down the road with different children. 

Children deserve our honor and our gentle voice and hands.  They deserve recognition that they are indeed different than adults.  They deserve to have a childhood filled with warmth and love.

And as mothers, we deserve support, we deserve love, we deserve peace.  We deserve a partner to make our load lighter and our steps happier, we deserve cherished friends to make the road a joyful one, a faith to make it all possible, and laughter along the way.

May all of these simple joys be yours in this Simple February!

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Waldorf Baby in January

(This post is geared toward infants/toddlers still using diapers).

This is a great month to focus on your rhythm and interaction with your baby during diaper changing time.  In an interview entitled “Do We Know Why We Do What We Do?  An Interview with Helle Heckmann” by Margaret Ris,  Helle Heckman was asked a question about the process of caring for the young child and  she said, “The whole process of caring for the little child matters.  For instance, with changing diapers, so few use cloth, but instead use the highly effective diapers that eliminate smells.  These diapers can be left on for five or six hours, rather than two hours, so now diapering time, that “You-and-I”, intimate, private time when one talks or sings to the child, is much reduced.”    (to read more about Helle Heckmann’s work at Nokken, please see this post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/31/nokken-a-review-of-two-books-and-a-few-thoughts/)

A few of my thoughts:

  • Change diapers frequently and allow plenty of  time for eye contact, interaction, singing, finger plays and toe plays.  Many  times  the baby is a passive witness to things going on in the home via a sling, but diaper changing time is a time to slow down and interact with that adorable baby!
  • You can take off an old diaper on a child who can stand standing up and then just quickly lay them down to put on a new diaper if an older baby is resistant to diaper changes.
  • Try a beautiful mobile overhead if you have a usual changing space.  You can make charming silk fairies to hang up, or little paper cut figures according to the seasons
  • Pick some wonderful songs that you can sing at diaper changing time and keep them consistent.
  • Older children can enjoy finger plays and toe plays during diaper changing time.
  • Keep in mind your beautiful gestures whilst you are doing this activity.  Honor your child’s body and its function.  Smile, don’t rush, be careful and gentle.  Smooth the diaper out before putting it on, be cheerful whilst reaching for supplies.    Some adults make all kinds of “jokes” about babies and their stool, which really bothers, irritates and angers me because this  is a healthy, normal function.  Why one would  shame a baby over a biological function that is necessary to live and not be sick amazes me.
  • Some folks have asked me about Elimination Communication and Waldorf, and to be honest, I am not sure there is any “official” sort of position on it; to me, if practicing Elimination Communication would fit into the natural rhythm and would not put individual pressure on the individual child, then it would be okay…(Remember, we are not trying to draw children out into their individual consciousness early on, so to me it would just have to  fit into the natural rhythm of things as a family)….  I do know Waldorf mothers who practice EC, and they are far more qualified to speak on this issue than I!   I believe there may also be a subform for Elimination Communication at the Mothering Magazine Forum.
  • If you are interested in cloth diapering (and yes, I know in areas with low water, people may choose not to in order to conserve) here is an article from Mothering Magazine:  http://www.mothering.com/green-living/joy-of-cloth-diapers.  Here is a primer as to the different types of diapers:  http://www.greenmountaindiapers.com/newmom.htm.   There are also pocket diapers out there such as FuzziBunz.   There are many, many kinds of  cloth diapers, and those of us who use cloth usually  have quite a few different types in our homes.  :)

There are many posts on this blog about the Waldorf Baby,and  each month I will be picking a different area to focus on as a gentle reminder.

Love,

Carrie

Waldorf In The Home With The One- And Two-Year Old

Sometimes I believe the “Waldorf Toddler Years” are the hardest areas to find information about regarding exact specifics as to what to expect and do, especially in the home environment.  Many of things one reads in the books touted for the Waldorf  Early Years (including Heaven on Earth, Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, etc)  seem to be more for children around age 3 (and I would argue that if your oldest is three and in the home environment with no older children around to imitate, that many of these activities should actually be brought in later than in the Waldorf Kindergarten!  More about that in a later post!)

The two main focus areas for the first two years are walking and speech.  Therefore, things to think about include gross motor movement and speech.  Here are some quick suggestions in these areas:

For those children who are  walking – walking and pushing weighted things, getting something off a table and putting into a bucket repeatedly, something where the child is squatting and then standing up to put things into a container, (and then you can do this with the child standing on a squishy throw pillow), toddling outside in all kinds of weather, squatting to play

For those more advanced walkers – walking on different surfaces in bare feet, stepping over things, going up and down stairs with a small railing, climbing on all four’s over things on the floor (to get into a bear’s cave maybe?), different textures to feel and walk on outside in barefeet if possible

For all ages – massage, water play, fingerplays, toeplays, being swaddled and unswaddled in blankets of different textures,  sitting on a blanket and being pulled around the house on a “Magic Carpet Ride”,

But the point is we approach these things with love and with imagination.  Be silent with warm looks or warm  gestures and do what you want the child to do or set a small scene for the older toddler with a few simple words – a  few words really do suffice!  Use music for your simple scenario.  (“My Big dwarf collecting jewels!” and sing a song about a dwarf or   “My beautiful butterfly just emerged from the cocoon!”  etc.)  

For two year olds working on speech, now YOU need to prepare as they will ask you over and over what something is.  You can answer that in one word, but then pull out a Mother Good rhyme or a song to sing.  That will expand their vocabulary even more and keep you from going into Adult Land with scientific explanations of how fish have gills to breathe and etc, etc.

Other things to work on:

Bodily care, toileting or diaper changes, is HUGE. I cannot stress this enough.  Times for bodily care should involve love, their involvement, singing and joy.

Meal times.  Again, unhurried, unrushed, singing, having your child help with preparation and clean-up.

Nap times/Rest Times.  Sing lullabies, have a blanket that is special for sleeping, have a routine involving physical touch of gentle massage or foot rubs

Bath times.  Singing, finger plays and toe plays, gentle rub downs with the towel (those textures again)

Outside time.  This is another place where verses come in handy.  If a child sees a flower, you can recite Mother Goose’s “DaffaDown Lily”, if they see a goose you can recite “

Participation in household life.  Your very gesture is so important, it should not be you rushing around trying to get the whole house clean in one day.  It is taking each article of laundry and smoothing it out, folding it tenderly, putting it in the pile to be put away with love for your family. What is important is not only that the child sees the work being done, but imitates that gesture of love and care.  That extends into caring for plants and animals, this is the very first “environmental education” that a child gets with you, right at home.

Music – as mentioned many times above, music and rhymes and verses should take precedence at this point over any written word. 

Inner Work/Personal Parenting Development:  The most spiritually mature people should be the ones coming into contact with the youngest children.  This is a very important time for your own work and  development.  If you are anxious, practice being calm.  If you are impatient, practice being patient.  If you talk in a stream of conscious way, practice being silent.  This is a time to develop your spiritual and religious beliefs.  It is a time to become more aware of the things unseen.

Joy!  Having a toddler should be joyful.  This age will never come again, enjoy it and marvel with them at their wonder!

Love,

Carrie