Children LOVE Veggies Straight from the Vine!

There are few things as wonderful as a child’s belly full of fresh peas straight from the vine or a face covered in fresh picked strawberry juice. Gardening with your children creates wonderful memories and I am so happy that this year, my garden will have a little visitor that will much away on anything he can get his hands on(dirt and rocks included). I have made sure that this year I’m growing the vegetables that he can and will eat plenty of and that dangerous vegetables are far from his reach.

Great Veggies for Fresh Snacking

Snap and Snow Peas and Pole Beans – These are great because little hands can only reach so high so there are some left for the rest of the family

Shelling Peas – These are a bit trickier to eat than soft peas, but super fun! They take more time to get to so your crop won’t take such a big hit from busy mouths.

Lettuce and spinach – There are so many varieties to choose from and it comes back quickly. It’s also easy on the tummy so eating an abundance won’t be a problem.

Broccoli – So fun to pick these little bursts of flowers. If you live in an area where you will have aphids, then they will even get some protein. ;)

Strawberries – There is debate about whether children under the age of one should eat strawberries, though we will try them with our son as soon as we have a good crop. (about 11 months)

!Plants to Avoid!

Rhubarb

All Nightshade Varieties – Tomatoes, Potatoes and Peppers

These are plants that have poisonious leaves. So unless your child is of an age where you know they will only eat the safe part (I would personally wait until 4 or 5) then best to keep them in a part of the yard where your little one doesn’t play.

In addition to fresh veggies eaten right off the plants, most children will eat up anything they pick fro the garden. They become so connected to the plants when they see the entire process. Instead of just A squash, it becomes THEIR squash. What are YOUR favorite veggies to grow in your garden?

Praise or Acknowledgment?

Lately, I have been thinking about how I should address my Son with all of his growing skills, like crawling or waving. It IS amazing to watch him do these things, but is that a sentiment I should share with him? I watch him crawl around all over and act in developementally advanced ways for his age, and listen to people around me tell him how “super” or “amazing” he is and somehow, all I feel is the need to protect him from this pressure. I just want to scoop him up and tell him I love him no matter what he does! When he crawls, or if When he throws a fit when I wipe his nose, he is still amazing to me.

In Magda Gerber’s book, Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect, she has a chapter on this very subject. There is a chapter on Praise or Acknowledgment in which she says: “Occasional reflections reassure the infant of our full attention and show our empathy. Rather than to give praise, the adult can be a broadcaster and describe the child’s actions.” Children do not have a need to be “amazing” or “wonderful”, they have a need to be SEEN. Instead of “Look at how great you are standing up all by yourself,” we can say “Look at you, standing all by yourself.” It is such a subtle shift by a paramount one for your little one.

“The commonly used “good girl” or “good boy” often becomes mechanical and subtly demeaning. It implies the child’s value as a person is contingent on his “performance.” It can create a conflict for the child. He may think he acts “bad” if he acts differently from whatever has just been praised as “good.”” What starts as a well-meaning and innocent show of love for our children, becomes, later in life, a complex of which much counseling may be needed. There are so many adults these days that feel inadequate when they hold normal, “boring” jobs and perform mediochre life tasks. Our value does not have to be in WHAT WE DO, but WHO WE ARE. Perhaps, with practice, we can learn to acknowlegde the good AND the bad, get rid or praise and reprimand, and simply help our little human being feel “seen” in the world.

Lisa Sunbury gives some great examples of how to acknowledge your child in her post Praise Not: “I suggest if you really want to convey your love, and let your child know you really see, hear, and appreciate his efforts and achievements, you say things like this: “Wow, I really like how you are remembering to stay near me today instead of wandering off.” Or, “Thank you for waiting so patiently while I paid for the groceries. That really helped me.” Or, “You remembered to walk while we were in the library today, and I didn’t have to remind you.” Or, “You worked really hard to put your shoes on all by yourself and you did it!” “Wow, look at all of the different colors you used in that drawing. You worked on it for a really long time. Tell me more about it.” “You were patting the kitty so gently. I can tell she liked it, because she was purring.” “You tried, and you tried, and you did it!”  ”I noticed you shared your snack with your friend today.” Say thank you, and give specific, meaningful feedback about what you see, what you hear, what you appreciate, and what you notice, especially when your child has really persisted in a task, has acted kindly, or has co-operated with you in some way. It’s always appropriate to thank your child when they co-operate with a request.”

What do you think of praise vs. acknowledgment? Do you feel that criticism and praise affected who you are as an adult?

Book Review of Baby-Led Weaning

Based on a paper by Gill Rapley, ‘Baby-led Weaning’ simply means skipping purees and letting your baby feed themselves from the get go. After six months of age, they are considered ready for this alternative journey. I enjoyed reading this book and had every intention of doing this with my son, but when the time came I must admit that I became so excited to spoon feed him that we just went that route instead. But there are things I implement with my son that I might not have tried had I not read this book.

What I did not like about this book is how it bashes spoon feeding, when there is nothing wrong with spoon feeding if that is what you choose to do.  This would also be a challenge for your baby to exclusively self-feed if they are on a schedule, or if you don’t plan to breastfeed past a year. It takes time for your baby to learn how to actually feed themselves because the first month or so, they are just experimenting with holding and mouthing the food.

I enjoyed how it encourages trying whole foods with baby. It reminds you that babies ARE smart and WANT to do what they see their parents doing. It’s empowering for babies to do things all by themselves, eating included. It has great instruction on how to help your child learn to feed themselves. Such as giving them sticks of steamed foods to chew on and even lamb chops to gnaw on! The book also goes into the fear of baby choking, as they WILL choke a bit when learning, and how we can wait a little and let them figure out how to work the food around their mouth and eventually learn how not to choke.

We spoon-fed our Son starting at 5 1/2 months because he was showing signs that he was ready and he was very active, crawling all over the place. Slowly, I started giving him foods to try on his own, like avocado slices and steamed carrot sticks. Our Son is 8 months old and can make his way through an entire un-cut banana. At first he would choke a little, but soon learned not to shove the entire thing in his mouth at once. Now we give him avocado halves, whole pieces of toast or rice cake or even a large piece of meat to chew on. Please enjoy this video of my Son figuring out a banana. 

I recommend reading this book, or checking out the baby-led weaning site, as it offers up many ideas that we don’t hear too often in popular culture. If you are into spoon feeding, then just ignore the slight guilt trip it gives you and just listen to the advice on how to help empower your baby through self-feeding. How did or would YOU introduce solids to your baby? What do you think of the baby-led weaning concept?

Intuition vs Information: Thoughts on The Parenting Method War

There is much debate about which parenting method is the ‘right’ one. It seems, at times, that I see wars going on all over the place; CIO vs. co-sleeping, Attachment parenting vs. Babywise, Day care vs. Stay at hom moms, etc. etc. etc. I’ve often thought that perhaps all of this debate is rather pointless. Perhaps all of this parenting advice is just helpful tools or even confirmations for us that we are doing the right thing for our children. We choose the philosophy that resonates with us the most and use that as our guide, and then we have these little people that join us in our world and get everything they need from our own individual styles as parents. They chose US as parents, and naturally we will give them everything they need to become the adults they are meant to be.

I chose a Waldorf/RIE method to follow for my parenting style and my profession. At the heart of Waldorf philosophy, the work we do is primarily of a spiritual nature. This could also be interpreted as intuition if you choose to see it that way. There are actually exercises and meditations we can do to stregthen this spiritual/intuitive quality in us as mothers. Some believe that we all have Spiritual helpers, or Angels, that help guide our way. As a woman who works with young children for my life’s work, I feel that this is so true for me. If I am actively working on my meditative/inner work practice, I am allowing myself to be open to divine intuition to help guide my way from day to day. I’m not thinking about how to work within a certain pre-determined method; I am listening to the moment. During a particularly challenging time, we can wait a few moment before we react and take a deep breath and the answer to the problem might be given to us.

Now, this is what I am experiencing in my work with children and it might be entirely different for everyone else, but the intuition is still there for each of us.  Whether you are following Angels and intuition or following a book, you are following your heart and doing exactly the right thing for YOUR children. Can you imagine a world where, instead of criticism and blame, we are surrounded by support and understanding? Can you imagine being out in public and not feeling self-conscious of your parenting but feeling empowered by the people around us? What are you thoughts on how to bring acceptance and trust for every mother and her own individual parenting method?

Backyard Wonderland

It’s a beautiful sunny day here in Portland and we have big plans for our backyard. It’s long been my wish to turn it into something magical for children to play in. Here are a few ideas we were planning on incorporating into our yard.

Grass and Edible Wild Flowers – Greenery and flowers will often become the stuff of potions and fairy houses for you little ones. It’s good to have edible flowers and herbs so that you can bring the magic inside for salads and tea. Here is a great site with a large variety of edible flowers. My favorites are sunflowers, marigolds, clover, lavender, and dandelions.

Large Stones – Children need real, good work, and what better work than hoisting around large stones. On summer days, hot stones become resting places for some interesting bugs.

Wood in a Variety of Sizes – From small sticks to large logs, the imagination can create so much. Sticks become wands and swords and logs become the steps to a house of base for a game of tag.

Living Willow House – I can’t imagine a better playhouse than one that grows and changes every year. Follow this link for great instructions on how to make your own living house.

Sandpit – Playing in the sand is an important task for little learning minds. Sand play is open-ended, the child determines the direction and path of his or her own play creating endless possibilities.

You will usually find these things and more in a Waldorf Kindergarten, and even if you can’t make your ideal Waldorf Magic Land, when left alone, your children will make so much from absolutely nothing. I recall spending long summer days in a completely bare backyard running around with my best friends playing that we were Unicorns, or swinging on the bench making up silly games and songs. There are so many great things you can do to your backyard to make it a place where the imagination can flourish, but the best thing you can provide is space for children to play independently.

Encouraging Baby’s Independance…And Mother’s Sanity

When my Son was 4 months old, he never, ever wanted to be set down on his own. When I needed to eat or use the restroom, he would get so mad that he was out of my arms and scream the entire time. Carrying around a 15 pound child all day long was not only physically exhausting, but emotionally exhausting as well, as I did not have my own space to take care of my basic needs. In addition to what I was feeling, my Son was not getting what he needed either. Sure he WANTED to be held, but he NEEDED to be able to move on his own and explore his individual place in the world. In her book Dear Parent: Caring for your Infant with Respect, Magda Gerber writes: “Parents who carry their babies most of the time are not giving their infants the opportunity to move according to their readiness. Most animals can show emotion only through touch, but we as humans have an extensive, varied and refined repertoire of ways to demonstrate love.”

So I was in a position where I was ready for something to change before I had a breakdown. Following Magda Gerbers advice, I would set him down for longer and longer periods of time. At first, he was so mad, he would cry and cry. After a little time, I would pick him up and instead of just mindlessly carrying him around as I had done before, I would really be present with him. I would talk to him about how great he was doing, getting used to being on his own, and how it IS hard to adjust to life here on earth and it’s perfectly alright to cry about it. Eventually, he was on his own longer and in my arms less and we were both finally free to be independent beings, co-existing with respect and love for the other.

Now I have my Son who couldn’t be happier crawling around my whole house while I sit in peace drinking tea and working on my own. He has finally gained the confidence he needed to play on his own. In her post Infant Play-Great Minds at Work, Janet Lansbury writes: “Babies are self-learners and what they truly need is the time, freedom and trust to just “be.” She shares a video of a boy who was left to play on his own for uninterrupted play from infancy:    

 “The first section is a four and a half month old boy playing outside. We then see the same boy at two years old focusing on a puzzle.  This boy spent his early years in free exploration between naps, feedings and diaper changes.  He was never directed, taught, or otherwise shown ‘how’ he should play. He was only interrupted when absolutely necessary.” I try to remind myself of the last part, and let my Son play uninterrupted. When he needs me, he always lets me know.

One thing I want to be clear of after sharing this story is that this what what my son and I needed. I know of so many mothers who choose to hold and wear their baby for large portions of the day, and I think that is great. It shows me that those mothers are responding to what THEIR children need. If it works for you and your family, then it must be the right fit. If it doesn’t work, which in my case was true, children are adaptable and intelligent beings that will fit into the lifestyle that works for you and your family as a whole.