Walks and Toddlers: 5 reasons to walk with your toddler and 7 tips to make it work.

photoDid you know that physically, a toddler can walk about a mile? It’s true! I’ve even seen small children walk more than this. It may come a a surprise to some that walking is one of the best activities for children. Why?

1. Walking increases endurance. If you can build up the endurance for physical activity, your toddler will be better able to play longer and have more tolerance for difficult situations that arise.

2. Long walks make for better sleep. By reducing stress, expelling extra energy and getting some good fresh air, your toddler may just surprise you with longer naps and better nighttime sleep.

3. Makes hungry bellies! Once your digestive fire is going from all of the exercise, a toddler might willingly devour a whole plate of cucumbers or kale! Mine will!

4. Helps build and improves the rhythmic system (heart, lungs, blood flow). (Stay tuned for a whole post just on this topic based on the work of Rudolf Steiner)

5. Concentrated quality time. Children love to pay close attention to hidden things nature and delight in the joy found on the earth; they LOVE when we share this with them.

 

Now, that probably sounds great but I bet some are wondering how on earth to make that happen. Toddlers wander and get tired, they fuss and stop for hours to look at a rock. Well there are some simple rules I follow when walking toddlers. Safety is important to me and I also like to relax on my walks. Following these tricks that I’ve learned over my teaching years help make our walks a safe and fun experience.

1. NEVER walk where you would not want them to wander. Their body will remember the pattern. So if you climb a big hill one day or go into the bushes to pick berries the next, expect to do it every single day. Where you walk is sort of like a crayon path that they will want to go, so mark your path well. If you are very, very careful about this the first 5 walks, then it will make things much easier and much SAFER for your future walks.

2. Create ‘stopping points’. Toddlers love to run off but if you can enforce a very clear expectation that they can only run to a certain point, they will stay in your sight. On your first walk, communicate very clearly the place that they must stop and wait for you and then make them stop here every single time you are out. Walk to that spot with them and then SIT THERE with them for a few minutes. Name it something fun like ‘the sitting rock’, ‘the butterfly bush’ or ‘the great big tree.’ Check out nature and chat about the clouds. Then make a big deal when its time to go again.

3. NO PHONES! Walking with your children is like concentrated quality time every bit if attention you give to them and to your beautiful surroundings will triple to inside play. (Possibly an exaggeration, but this point must be stressed) They do not want you on the phone either so will most likely create mischief to get your attention back. ;)

4. Go slow. Like turtle speed slow. If you have an hour long to walk then expect half a mile, total! When your children are more used to walking you will be able to go further.

5. Walk daily, gradually increasing the distanceStart by walking to the end of the block, then a little more, and a little more every day. In the beginning don’t go far as you may end up carrying your toddler home; 30 pounds is not fun to carry for 1/2 a mile.

6. Sit still and observe. When you stop and play, don’t hover over your children, let them explore. When you stay in one place, you will be a strong foundation for them and they will be more free to explore knowing where their home base is. They love it when we quietly watch them in reverence; take joy in their discovery of the nature that surrounds  them, you will be surprised what they see that you may have overlooked.

7. Trust your toddler, they are smarter than most people realize. If they tumble or get stuck, resist the urge to rush over and help them; often they will fuss for a second and then become delighted in a bug or rock that they have found on the ground in front of them. Don’t help them climb trees and hills; it is safer if they can climb it themselves as they will learn how to manage the tree (you can help them get down though) They will feel that you trust them to take on the challenge instead of nervous that they can’t do it on their own.

BONUS 8. DON’T EAT FROM PLANTS! If you will be so lucky as to walk deep in nature, learn about the animal droppings and plants in your area that may be unsafe to touch or eat. You could also learn about what is safe to eat from the wild, but I don’t think I would let children under 6 eat straight from wild plants as the younger ones will do it to ALL plants and not know the difference. For little ones you could always pick plants that you want to eat at home, like blackberries or fiddle heads. Remember that they do what they see you do, if you eat a blackberry from a plant, they may feel inclined to eat nightshade berries, just like mommy. Be safe and resist the urge.

I hope that this is all helpful for you. Please let me know the tricks and tips that you use when walking with your children.

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Learning Auntiehood, Aka: Learning to Keep My Mouth Shut

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I just returned from visiting my sister and her new family, where I got to lay around while my nephew snuggled and slept on my chest all day. I fell instantly in LOVE with him and with being and aunt! I am really going to love spoiling that adorable child rotten!

I also got a taste for my foot when I put it in mouth a few times. I have quite a bit of information and far too many opinions. I often practice keeping them to myself until asked (or put them on my blog) but with my sister I was too comfortable bombarding her with insights that she didn’t ask for and might not have wanted. Once when I crossed the line I sincerely apologized and was graciously forgiven. On the (quiet, toddler-less) flight home I contemplated my new roll as an aunt.

As an older sister, I often lecture her on what I think the best course is for her life. I have an instinct to protect my little sister and it will come out in ways that may not be helpful, like opinions and information that works for me but not necessarily for her. My sister is very different from me, of course she will mother differently.

I was actually amazed, though not surprised, by my sisters level of calm around her newborn. She IS calmer and more laid back than me as I have to work hard to cultivate that level of zen. She is also braver than me and far more impulsive. She will love her son more than anything in the world as she has a strong heart with deep compassion for those she loves. These are just some of the gifts that she has to offer her son!

So I am actually quite happy that we are now fellow mothers. Her son chose HER and she will learn her own way to be his mother. She will even have an abundance to teach me if I can keep my mouth shut and listen.

Three Simple Ways to Keep Calm in The Storm: A Helpful Tool For Handling Crying, Whining, Tantrums and Fights.

ImageFind your feet, find your breath, find you light. Repeat it with me: “find my feet, find my breath, find my light.”

1. Find your feet – Imagine roots growing deep down into the earth from your toes, heals, arch, everywhere.

2. Find your breath -Now, find your breath and keep it soft and deep.

3: Find your light – Find the soft spot in your heart and imagine a ball of warm light growing to fill every space in the room with its warmth. Your chest opens, your shoulders relax and you feel as if wings are growing from this light.

These are 3 of many exercises I learned in Waldorf Teacher Training. I found that once I forgot most of them, these were the 3 that I always come back to. When everyone is screaming at me and I feel trapped in the emotional turmoil, taking 30 seconds to do this frees me and I am once again a successful mother.

Optional 4: Ask God for help If not God, then Mother Earth, Angels, or the Collected Human Consciousness. If you believe in spiritual helpers, use them; they are always here to help you, you need only ask.

Ten Reasons Why I Love to Nanny With My Baby

ImageBefore my son was born, I knew that I would nanny with him. I had worked with children of all ages for many years before deciding to have children so I knew that I would figure it out. When he was 3 months old we began this journey into nannying together. At first it was really hard, but then I adapted and I was pleased by all of the benefits!

1. He has pseudo siblings. Lucas gets so much friend time that it just doesn’t feel like he needs a sibling right now. Now that he is 1 1/2 years old people love to ask me when the next one is coming and it’s very easy to shrug off the question and say “who knows!” It’s great because I really don’t want another child right now but would struggle with this if he didn’t have daily exposure to other children.

2. He learns to care for others. Ever since he was a baby, he watched as I cared for the other children in my care. I often involve him in this process now that he is older, such as: “Sophia is so sad, can you help her feel better?” I am really enjoying the level of empathy he seems to have gained from this.

3. He knows how to share mommy. I can hug and love other children and he has not yet complained about this. He will often come over for a quick hug while I hug the others, but then goes on his way. I have lots of love to give and am happy that he seems to know that I can share that love.

4. He learns patience. Sometimes, he’s just got to wait. I have to cloth, change and feed other people, including myself. I feel that if I were alone with him he would not see that he AND other children are all learning to wait their turn and that is just a part of the world.

5. I learn flexibility. As I must balance everyones needs, I learn how to meet them with calm and grace. It always works out for the best and I have learned to trust this. I know my personality and if I were at home alone all day I would never go anywhere or do anything to disrupt my routine comfort. This makes me braver and I am happy to say that his infant time was filled with fearless outings.

6. I gain close parent peers. I see parents at playgroups and church, but it’s only at most once a week. When I nanny I see the parents multiple times a week and so we are better able to openly discuss the challenges and successes in our parenting. I feel like it’s closer to the type of ‘village’ that used to raise children. (Though it is nice that there are parent groups that are beginning to heal this loss of community, like the Peps Organization and Meetup.com)

7. He gets to live in the early childhood world. Adult voices can be so exhausting for small children and we just don’t know how to play anymore. When my son gets to be around other children, I feel as if he can relax more in his own peer group. He plays better and has a calmer disposition when there are these little people around that are just his same size acting in the same silly little way.

8. He learns more! When watching the older children, little ones see how life is lived. The simplist activities like crawling, walking, holding a spoon, putting on a shoe or sitting in a chair are demonstrated much better by someone who has had recently learned all of this. (The plus side for the older children is that the gain confidence when they can teach this!)

9. He is not the center of the universe. It’s not all about him, not now and not ever. I believe that it’s crucial that we learn this as human beings; there are other people in the world that we must always consider. A little selfishness has it’s place but building good communities start with selflessness. My feelings, daddy’s feelings and anyone else in our care’s feelings matter too and the quality (vs. quantity) of the care he receives from me is what will matter in the end. When he actually has to experience this now, it’s easier than having to teach it to him later.

10. I have so much fun! Sometimes days are tricky, but mostly the days are filled with cooking, cleaning, playing, laughter and joy! It’s very fun to share this with multiple children because when something is fun, it’s so much MORE fun with each additional child! Sometimes I feel like I have bright, shiny wings and 20 arms while I dance and sing about like a pixie! I was born to be a mother and teacher of small children so this is excatly where I WANT to be.

If you are considering nannying with your own children I feel that you must ask yourself several questions: Do I have an amazing amount of patience? Do I mind being really messy all of the time? Do I have the ability to practice meditation and inner work so that I may have a peaceful and empty mental space for the children? Am I okay with my baby crying while I care for the other children? Can I successfully and happily juggle 30 things at once? AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: Will I be able to strive for really good and open communication with the parents I work with? The most important part of working with a family is the communication. Once you find a family that you feel fits your just right, then it can blossom into a beautiful experience. I have had great succes because the families I like to work with are kind and genourous families that share a similar respect for their children as I practice with my own.

See these sleepy little cuddle buddies. When I ask if he’s ready to go see the children I nanny, he laughs, nods and says “YES!”

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Co-sleeping is Amazing…But It’s Not For Us.

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I love co-sleeping. I think one of the greatest gifts we get as parents is to hold and look upon our sleeping angels. I especially love the idea of being able to cuddle with them all night long; listening to that tiny snore and soft, peaceful breathing; watching their eyes twitch while having little baby dreams. We co-slept with our son for the first 4 months before we realized that the idea was much different from the reality.

I come from a family of light sleepers that struggle with occasional insomnia. Ever since I was 18 I have had a troubled relationship to sleep, often turning to relaxation yoga and natural sleep aids and occasionally turning to heavy dose prescription sleep pills when in a multi-month long battle with insomnia. So for me, having another squirming, noisy person squished right next to me was the worst possible thing for my sleep.

So there came the day when I knew that it just wasn’t going to work. I called my best friend and cried because I didn’t want to kick my son out all on his own. We started him out in his own room and gradually he slept longer and longer. (You can read our transition story here) It was only after my bed was finally mine again that I realized how very much co-sleeping was not for us. I began getting sleep again and all of the body aches from weird sleeping positions faded away. When he slept away from me I missed him and just cherished him so much more during the day.

Dr. Sears speaks so much about nighttime parenting and the benefits of co-sleeping that I felt so pressured! I felt that applying his theory would make me a better mother and that doing the opposite would make me just terrible. In our case we found that we could have a barely successful mother 24 hours a day or sleeping mother who is super successful 12 hours a day. In theory co-sleeping is just divine, but in the end you must find what works for your unique family.