My Son’s Middle Name is Danger: Allowing Risky Behavior for Little Ones.

IMG_1690Today I read this post by Anna from Mama’s in the Making and it got my blood boiling because I have been in this situation and passionately agree with her points! She clearly states the many positives of letting you little ones take risks; specifically busy toddlers. Boy do I know about busy toddlers as my son is quite the little ‘problem solver’ (that is a nice way of saying ‘complete trouble maker’). In our own house this is fine because we have an environment where he has freedom to play and ‘problem solve’ as much as he wants. It’s when we go to other’s houses or public play areas that the real problem comes.

I was recently in a situation where I was around some overprotective adults who were constantly on his heals for every little slip and fall. I kept quite for a long time until I completely lost it and literally ran in tears. As a mother who takes great pride in my ability to stay calm when my son face plants in the dirt and stands back up laughing, I felt completely belittled. I carefully observe every little move my son makes, evaluating when he needs help, watching him gracefully move in a way most 16 month old children don’t. I see him develope his gross motor skills and sense of physical sense awareness and feel such pride for him. There are many mistakes I have made thus far in my short stint with parenting, but his natural physical development is one thing I have always tried to protect.

In this post Anna says it perfectly: “Risks are part of the game. As soon as babies begin to move around freely they start taking risks. They roll over one side without knowing what will happen when they are on the other side – on their belly. Their head is still heavy and difficult to control, and usually the first rolling over is followed by a bang on the floor or surface underneath. A crucial moment. Do I jump in and support him, place blankets and mattresses everywhere so he won‘t hurt? Or do I let him learn the Art of Falling?” When my son was 4 months old I had to train myself to wait…wait…wait, and then help.There were many hard moments when he would cry when his arm was stuck or he was stuck in a corner. Then came the moments when he would pull up on furniture and fall backwards (onto the pillows I would provide for extra support, so that he COULD fall). Not only does this help with thier motor skills and physical capability, it improves attention span to let them be! Janet Lansbury says: “give babies the opportunity to continue what they are doing, learn more about what interests them, develop longer attention spans and become independent self-learners.”

IMG_4828Our children are going to make mistakes and fall and fail. We can start now by learning to give space and let them find thier own way in life: “Learning to assess risk is learning to judge reality; it is learning what we can and cannot do; it is, above all, learning what to do in a situation when we don’t know what to do. This is a great skill, one that is useful in just about everything we can think of. Knowing how to look at dangerous situations and figuring out what to do to stay safe is definitely something we want our children to learn. Knowing when it is worth making that extra step to the other side might be one of the things that will determine how they fare in life. Essentially, knowing how to take risks means also knowing how to stay safe… most of the time. After all – sometimes risking in life is exactly what allows us to go where we need to go, and maybe find our own path.”

Next time when I am in danger of fighting and running in tears in frustration, I will try to simply say: “I trust my child, please trust me.”

What are your thoughts? I would love to discuss this with Mom’s who have a different perspective.

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For the Love of Nature

We all want our children to love nature, right? Well the first step in that process is to love nature ourselves! Little ones love to sit and watch nature, so it’s important to give them time to do so.

They love to sit and watch the dandelion gently blowing in the breeze, or listen to the bees buzzing in the flowers…

…they enjoy the gifts of nature like the dirt and stones or the the tiny sunflower picked just for them…

…they will even find the faint moon high in the sky in the light of the day.

We can help cultivate this love for nature, not by over-talking or trying to teach about it, ruining its beauty with our over intellectualized adult point of view, but by observing its wonder and beauty ourselves. Only children really understand the glory of nature with their unspoiled youth and fresh perspective. It is not us that has something to teach our children about nature, but our children who will teach us.

The Joy of Work in Early Childhood

I am so excited to be writing this post! My child has officially entered this stage and I couldn’t be happier! We spend so much time together because my son will come up to me just to imitate my actions. “Do you want to help mommy,” I will ask and then hand him his own copy of what ever I am doing. He will sit and work with me until he eventually wanders off into something else.

Work is his play and play is his work! What I mean by that statement is that when children work with you, this is play for them as well as great quality time with mom or dad. When they play this is the work that will develop their growing motor skills and mental capacities. I highly recommend reading Freya Jaffke’s book, Work and Play in Early Childhood for more wonderful information and tools on this concept. Freja Jaffke was born in 1937. She worked at Reutlingen kindergarten in Germany for many years and now lectures throughout the world in teacher training colleges. She provides tried and tested advice on this important stage of development.

On this great Parenting Passageway Post on chores, Carrie writes “I remark here that rhythm in the practical work of the home and working TOGETHER in joy is what lays the foundation of wholly independent work… IMITATION is also another way to help children learn about chores when they are young.” Here, she lists a great number of chores that can be done with your children, including (for your toddler) “wipe tables and counters with damp sponge, wash vegetables or tear lettuce, help provide water and food for pets, help clean up after play and meals, water plants outside, pick up toys and books, throw things out for you, help clean up spills and messes…” and many more on the post!

Your little ones LOVE to help you and love the time with you in this way because all they want is to learn to do what we do as adults. So here is the amazing thing: you CAN get your housework done with small children in the house! Don’t wait until they go to nap because then they miss all of the fun! Do your work around them and they will come to you to help. Include them. “Do you want to help mommy wipe the counter? Here’s a rag for you!” “Do you want to help mommy fold laundry? Sit on my lap and we will do it together!”

I am so enjoying this part of my sons development and everyday I think of all of the fun housework we can do together. For those of you that do not love housework, you may think I’m nuts. But if you try housework with your little one, you may find that there is a level of enjoyment that you never thought possible.

What are your thoughts on housework with your child? What are your plans for implementing chores with your young family members?

What Does Unassisted Natural Development Look Like?

When babies are free to explore and develop unassisted at their own pace they perform beautiful dance from laying on their back to walking. For some babies, this process happens fast and is completed by 9 months! For most, it will take around a year and for some it will take longer. For parents, it is a joy to watch our children discover their capabilities and it is important to be patient and let this happen at your baby’s unique pace. As stated by Janet Lansbury in this post: Infant Development Experts Magda Gerber and Emmi Pikler “both had keen interest in the physiology of motor development that was not restricted, aided or taught. Through many years of research, observation and experience, Pikler concluded that when infant development is allowed to occur naturally, without interference, there are not only physical benefits such as grace and ease of movement, but psychological and cognitive benefits as well…”

“The learning process will play a major role in the whole later life of the human being. Through this kind of development, the infant learns his ability to do something independently, through patient and persistent effort. While learning during motor development to turn on his belly, to roll, to creep, sit, stand, and walk, he is not only learning those movements, but also *how to learn*. He learns to do something on his own, to be interested, to try out, to experiment. He learns to overcome difficulties. He comes to know the joy and satisfaction that is derived from his success, the result of his patience and persistence.”Dr. Emmi Pikler

The Dance (As seen from a mother’s eyes watching her son)

Here he is brand new laying on his back, limbs moving as if underwater, freely and rhythmically while his eyes focus on the magic of the new world that I can no longer comprehend through my adult eyes. I enjoy watching this; watching him discover that he is here now and his body and world are his own. Eventually he finds his hands in excitement and confusion, his eyes focus on his fingers as his brow furrows at this spectacle. “Is this attached to me?” He lays and watches as he discovers that he has control over this hand, his own hand! Next are his feet, he sees them and then he grabs them with his hands! Like magic, he can make these things happen! He grabs them and begins to roll onto his side on accident. This is frustrating for him and alarming, his whole world view has just moved, he cries until he is on his back again where he feels safe. But this new thing that was scary has become fascinating and he begins to rock back and forth eventually lands on his belly! What a change! He sits in amazement and shock at this new perspective and slowly gets his arms out from under him.

He can now lay on his belly and push up onto his arms where he can move his head around to look at this new world. When he pushes hard enough, he rocks onto his knees, which is very exciting. He squeals in happiness as he rocks back and forth! Now he can see what is around him and what he wants. A toy sits a foot away and he grabs for it, but it’s too far and he cries. Fighting through frustration, he learns that he CAN prevail and eventually scoots on his tummy to the toy. Fantastic, more squeals of delight! He has discovered how to push himself onto his arms and flop himself forward on his belly. First he forms a circle of movement and then suddenly he is in the kitchen, 10 feet from where he began!

Later, he is on his hands and knees rocking and he reaches for a toy with his hand, only his knee follows suit! He discovers that when his knees follow his hands, he can move faster, and he is all about faster! First he tries moving his parallel hands and feet, then discovers that alternating is far more efficient. Now here he is, crawling about my house, going in places I never expected, like behind the toilet and under the bed. Oh how he laughs with me when I find him in these places. Next he learns how to sit, and oh how pretty he is. With one hand down and one on his hip he just looks so fancy. And oh what a place to be, where he can balance on his own and play!

Soon he discovers that if he grabs onto furniture that is taller than him he can become taller himself by standing! But he gets stuck here and cries and falls. Up and down he stands and falls and cries until eventually he learns on his own how to put his hand on the floor first or fall on his bottom, much to his delight. He now scoots all around the tables and chairs. One day, he grabs an object on the table and lets go to hold the object, what a surprise as he falls, but now he has learned how to trust his movement so immediately tries and tries to stand on his own over and over until standing becomes his own. He pulls himself up, lets go and looks at me with excited eyes that seem to say: “look what I am doing Mommy! All on my own!” “Yes, you are standing all on your own,” I say back to him.Now to go and get to the dogs, he falls down to crawl so fast to them, bear crawling now because it is faster. What? The feet move? He stands and instead of crawling after something, he takes one step, then two, then three! He practices, walking towards me with his eyes full of joy and excitement.

Watching him walk to me with those eyes and that smile, knowing that I let him do all of this on his own; I gave him his space and his walking belongs entirely to himself.  That thought fills me with complete joy and pride. He still walks towards me, all wobbly and full of joy, but soon he will walk away from me, out to explore the world on his own with complete trust in his body and his world.

Over the course of a year or so all babies will make this progression, if left to do so on their own. When we put them in positions that they cannot get into themselves, it will interfere with their natural progression and cause frustration. Now it is said that a lot of babies skip crawling, I believe that this has to do with the rise of sitting babies up in unnecessary infant seats and the feeling that we must rush our babies into the next developmental milestone. As Ruth Ann Hammond states: “The inner drive to be upright is hard to turn off once it has been turned on, but when babies are allowed to “hang out” on their backs until they can do otherwise without help, eventually they can do so many things through their own initiative that they love being on the floor to play.”  When it comes to development, faster is not always better. Some children develop their movement fast all on their own and some wish to take their time. Patience is the key.

“I believe in giving your baby a safe space in which to play and letting her move freely and develop on her own without assisting her. Refrain from propping her up to sit or helping her roll over. She has an innate desire to move through these developmental sequences and has inborn knowledge of how to do it in a way that is “right” for her. She does this at her own pace and she gets pleasure from doing it.” –Magda Gerber

Natural Progression of Infant Development: Adapted from AAP and Baby 411

This is a chart I made that covers the natural progression of movement from laying on their backs to walking. Notice that I have left out tummy time and sitting baby up as some believe these are unnecessary.

Rolls onto tummy                                                             3 – 8 mo.

Scoots around on tummy                                               4 – 8 mo.

Crawls                                                                                  5 – 12 mo.

Gets to sitting without help                                           6 – 12 mo.

Pulls self-up to standing                                                 6 – 12 mo.

Stands alone briefly                                                         7 – 13 mo.

Cruises  around on furniture                                         7 – 14 mo.

Stands alone                                                                       9 – 15 mo.

Walks alone                                                                        9 – 16 mo.

Here is a great article by Emmi Pikler about the Natural Development of Movement that I highly suggest you read.

You can also look into Amazing Babies by Beverly Stokes and Your Self-Confidant Baby by Magda Gerber for more information on Natural and Unassisted Development during the first year. Please share your thoughts and stories on this topic as I would love to hear your thoughts.

Children as Zen Masters

I recently read this article on Mothering.com about the Spirituality of Parenting. Mother Cheryl Dimof speaks of how our children are little Zen masters, living very fully in the moment. There is quite a bit we can learn from the way children go about their day. We could learn so much about ourselves and our children if we took the time to simply be present  in our daily activities. While we may not find the time everyday to make space for a meditative practice, we can make our daily activities meditative; slowly and purposefully doing the dishes or cutting vegetables and fruit with love and care. By doing this we can quiet our mind and create a peaceful mind space during our busy day.

Not only is having a meditative practice a gift to ourselves, but it is a gift to our children as well. In this post on Janet Lansbury’s blog about Magda Gerber, she gives two examples of how being zen-like can benefit our children:

“By holding back our impulse to teach, direct, or otherwise intervene when a child plays, we are often amazed by the child’s developing abilities. Through observation we gain insights into the origins of a host of psychological issues, major and minor. Some strike a chord. Parents have reported realizations in RIE parenting classes about personal issues that eluded them for years in psychotherapy.”

Quiet objective observation or what Gerber calls’ wants nothing’  quality time ” encompass a wide range of experiences, but all we are asked to do is pay attention and have no agenda of our own. It can mean being quietly available as a baby explores patterns of light on a blanket beneath him, or standing nearby while he has a screaming meltdown because he cannot have another cookie. It may be trickier to see the benefit for parents and caregivers in this latter scenario, but it is clarity. When we pay full attention to our child for intervals each day, no matter what the tone of our exchange or the outcome is, we are giving him the quality time he needs. We are doing our job.”

Taking care of children can be incredibly joyful as well as draining; I hope these articles can help bring a little peace to your day.

Here is a little video I captured that has 5 minutes of me observing my son. It is not as if he is doing anything particularly exciting, but he is just right there in the moment. I often wonder how he decides what he will do next in course of actions…