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Cardboard Boxes, Sand and Water

Posted September 28, 2014

The remarkable early education a young child gleans from imaginative play hasn't changed one iota since forever ago.  Neither has the irreplacable value of having mud, sand, water, mixing bowls, dolls and dress-up clothes available.  What has changed, sadly, is that many parents have come to view "early education" as being based on enrichment materials, preschool curriculums and extra-curricular activities like dance, swim and music classes for young children.

 Historically Kids have always been allowed to play, free of adult-direction. And, in the 80's and 90's new research showed how parts of the brain actually light up for children as they follow their curiosity and engage in exploration and discovery of the world around them. This came as good news for parents and people trained in early education as it gave affirming back-up for what had always been believed.

Then things went awry. The research findings were picked up by the media and the the original knowledge about the value of play was hijacked by marketers and toy companies!  Gradually the message became about the value of early stimulation and parents were bombarded with advice to purchase "stimulation" toys to hang from cribs, car seats and strollers - with the promise that these toys would make their babies smarter. Baby Einstein videos soon appeared also with a promise of educational entertainment.  As a result of these consumer messages parent began to do more entertaining of their babies. Partly this was done from pleasure, but partly out of guilt, partly to try to keep the baby happy at all times, and partly to avoid worrying that the child is "bored." Many parents still fear their baby is bored. 

It's very important that you as a parent do not get lost in those 'early stimulation' messages. For your baby, 'early education' starts as you gaze at each other and talk or mimic baby sounds as you gradually fall head over heels with each other.  The best educational materials are those you allow your baby to find around your house. Simple play props are  best for babies and toddlers. And your home is your child's first university.  The learning and brain development will be strongest and most satisfying when your baby's play is self-directed.  Puttering around, picking things up, putting them down, finding things inside containers, manipulating items of different weights and textures, reaching and pulling and climbing.  These experiences are golden for you child and the more days you can arrange for your baby or toddler to be at home, at work in their university setting, the better for their education.

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How Does a Baby Spend It’s Day?

Posted September 18, 2014

One third - One third - One third

How does a baby spend it's day?
One-third of a baby's day will be spent being fed, dressed, bathed, changed and sleeping.
One-third of a baby's day can be spent in close contact with a beloved person, gazing at each other, exploring things together, playing, singing, talking.
The last third of your baby's day can be spent in "alone time." This refers to time on the floor with some interesting items around or time in a baby chair watching the world go by. Allowing a baby to have time alone, periodically, during the first few months and beyond, gives her a head start in growing up... able to enjoy her own company.

This is how babies do their best work.  Sleeping, eating, hanging out with a beloved person and hanging out with her/himself.  it's this last one, however (hanging out on one's own) that trips up many parents.  There's that feeling that if your baby is awake you should be playing with her, making her laugh, entertaining her somehow.  If you are always entertaining, however, two things will happen.  One, you are going to tire out.  Two, your baby won't ever let you leave or stop or quit carrying or entertaining.  The easier "solution" is to head out of the house.  The park, the car, a friend's house.  Those activities are all OK occasionally, but they don't meet your baby's need to learn to enjoy his own company. 

My suggestion is to devote part of yours and your baby's week to being at home, following the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 framework described above.  Then know that there will be at least one day when you can be out and about, doing what brings you pleasure and company and just know that naps will likely be missed or happen in the carseat, but that's OK.  It's your day!  (If you have family in town, perhaps one will offer to be 'at home' with your baby so you can really feel free.)

Slowing down is good for babies and i'ts good for parents.

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Filed under: Daily Routines


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How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?

Posted September 6, 2014

I'm often asked "How much sleep does my baby need?" (or toddler or preschooler).  I respond with the guidelines I use in my sleep counseling with parents: Aim for an 11-hour night from birth to six months (including night feeds); thereafter, move toward a 12-hour night. While children may not actually sleep for 12 full hours every night, this allows them to, at times when they need it.  If theydon't need that much sleep on some nights, this gives them time to talk or play on the way to sleep or in the morning before 7 am. 

Also, I sugges parents aim for an appropriate number of 2- hour (approx) naps through the day, depending on age. 

Like parents I speak with, I wish there were universally agreed upon guidelines, based on firm research.  The following abstract from a yet-unpublished article in the Sleep Medicine Journal tells why this definitive research on children's sleep needs - is hard to come by.

The complexities of defining optimal sleep: Empirical and theoretical considerations with a special emphasis on children

"The main aim of this paper is to consider relevant theoretical and empirical factors defining optimal sleep, and assess the relative importance of each in developing a working definition for, or guidelines about, optimal sleep, particularly in children. We consider whether optimal sleep is an issue of sleep quantity or of sleep quality. Sleep quantity is discussed in terms of duration, timing, variability and dose–response relationships. Sleep quality is explored in relation to continuity, sleepiness, sleep architecture and daytime behaviour. Potential limitations of sleep research in children are discussed, specifically the loss of research precision inherent in sleep deprivation protocols involving children. We discuss which outcomes are the most important to measure. We consider the notion that insufficient sleep may be a totally subjective finding, is impacted by the age of the reporter, driven by socio-cultural patterns and sleep-wake habits, and that, in some individuals, the driver for insufficient sleep can be viewed in terms of a cost–benefit relationship, curtailing sleep in order to perform better while awake. We conclude that defining optimal sleep is complex. The only method of capturing this elusive concept may be by somnotypology, taking into account duration, quality, age, gender, race, culture, the task at hand, and an individual's position in both sleep–alert and morningness–eveningness continuums. At the experimental level, a unified approach by researchers to establish standardized protocols to evaluate optimal sleep across paediatric age groups is required."

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Filed under: Sleep and sleep training


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Feeding Honeymoon is Over When Your Child Becomes a Toddler

Posted September 2, 2014

Did you even know you were in a honeymoon phase before your baby became a toddler?  Well, according to Registered Dietition, Nutritionist and Family Therapist Ellyn Satter, parents should be laid back about introducing a baby to solid food.   It's a time for "fun and games," she says.  Some babies enjoy every spoonfull and others may be insulted by the very idea.  Still, she assures us that every baby is learning - regardless of whether much food goes in.  Then, however comes the toddler stage!

In fact, any time from about nine months on, your child may insist emphatically on doing this herself.  She grabs the spoon, tosses it on the floor, closes her mouth and turns her head away!  Most parents still try - against all odds -  with the spoon, afraid the child won't get enough to eat. 

This is the time to turn things over  to the little person who will ultimately be in charge of what goes into her body.  Start putting bits of food on the high chair tray and look away, get busy somewhere else in the kitchen.  Ignore the food on the floor.  Cheerios, grated cheese, grated peeled apple, bits of toast with butter, a piece of banana, and the tiniest, cooked broccoli tree you can pick off - are all good things to put on her tray, from time to time, and then remember to  turn away.  Watching or focusing on a child this age doesn't tend to go well and can lead to behavior issues. 

Don't be put off by gagging.  Lumpy food often causes sensitive eaters to gag at first.  This is not choking, it's only gagging and unless you react, she'll gag less and less as she tries new foods. (If you do react with panic her gagging can become an attention-getting habit.)  Choking, on the other hand, requires a chokable object such as a whole grape, hard candy, a chunk of raw carrot, the stump end of a teething biscuit, etc.

Now I want you to read, in Ellyn Satter's own words, how to handle the pitfalls of early eating, up through preschool.  Newsletter

Cheers,

Kitty Raymond

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Filed under: Feeding and Eating


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