Thursday, December 31, 2009

A House of Ribbons

Got a baby on the move? Why not build him a fun place where he can retreat, relax if he chooses and recharge so you can chase him around the house again? A house of ribbons is a perfect place to do just that and it is super cheap to make. In fact, you might already have these recycled materials in your house. Here is what you need:

A medium to large sturdy box (such as one a computer or printer is packed in)
An assortment of ribbons
Nail punch (or something else to puncture holes into the box)

Okay, now you are set. Let's get started!

1. Make sure you remove all items from your box and inspect it for any loose bits such as tape or staples. We don't want any hazards to hurt baby and disrupt his play.

2. Turn the box on its side. using the nail punch, puncture holes at least a hand length apart along the box side facing the top.

3. Select a ribbon and push it through the hole. Use the hole punch to help push it through. Tie a large knot big enough that if the ribbon is yanked from the inside of the box, it won't pull through. Leave at least 4 inches or more between the ribbon and floor. The idea is to create a nice sensory room for your baby to crawl into to explore. We don't want him getting tangled in a web of ribbons. Depending on how large your box is, you'll probably only need about 8-10 hanging ribbons.

4. Suggestion: Make a hole at opposite ends of the box. Take a large ribbon and tie a large knot in the middle. Push an end of the ribbon through each hole. As baby pulls on a end inside of the box he will notice it gets longer (as the other side shortens). What a fun cognitive experience for bub! He wills soon figure out which two tangly ribbons he can move and while the rest are tied snug in place.

5. Now make a fun entry way to the box. You can make a ribbon curtain like ours with a bunch of ribbon cut the same length and taped side by side using packing tape along the edge of the entry way of the box. If you don't have enough ribbon, try fastening on a sheer piece of fabric or multiple sheer or silky scarves for your little one to crawl through.

Your House of Ribbons is now complete! How easy and cheap was that!? If you want, line the bottom with a blanket or but a pillow or some soft toys for bub inside. Change out the treasures for a nice surprise. If possible, use a box that has punch through handles that create a 'window' for your little one which he can open and shut. If not you can easily make your own buy cutting through the box. If you are worried about paper cuts, you can always use masking tape to cover and smooth out the edges.

That's it. Now go have some fun!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

And Off We Go!

On the Crawl- Christmas Day at the Beach House
My prediction came true. My little man began creeping/crawling (he does a nice combo) by Christmas! On 23 December Lachlan decided to take his first consecutive series of forward creeps. He was very excited as was I! After all there is only so much frustration a little bub can take. He had been trying for so long, gave up for awhile, mastered pulling himself up and then decided he would have a go at it again. I really thought he might just bypass the creeps and go straight to walking as he has started to cruise along the furniture. He has his own plans though, as I find most babies do and decided that he wouldn't take the easy way out for him. I like his personality already! Of course he is everywhere now. Climbing over pillows, looking for chords to pull and something to tip over. We pretty much had everything baby proofed but babies have a way of showing you exactly what else needs to go into hiding for awhile. The plant stand found a new home in the laundry room and the stereo is now out of reach; minor disturbances considering I am now getting my floors dust mopped for free. If only I can teach him to get in those hard to reach corners....

The First Snip

 Well, today I bit the bullet and took Lachlan with me to see Toni, my stylist. It was time for him to get a new do! His first time to the hairdresser. I couldn't believe the time had come already. His hair had been getting closer to his eyes for awhile so it was inevitable. I could no longer do the punk rocker mohawk and the the bed head look wasn't cutting it anymore. I was on my way out the door to the salon and hubby suggested that we take Lachlan along. At first my neurotic maternal instincts kicked in, you know, the ones that are irrational that just want you to keep your little tot a baby forever, but reason tackled her down and made me realise the time had come. After all, I really didn't want him to start preschool looking like Jesus. At the rate his hair is growing all we would have had to do was buy him some sandals and don him in a robe and he would be good to go. Although I am a Christian, I thought that perhaps this might be over-doing it. After all I don't want him thinking I expect him to walk-on water...though in my mind he already does...that is the neurotic mother taking over again.

After my hair was cut, Lachlan sat on my lap and Toni my stylist wrapped a plastic smock around his little neck. He looked so grown up, except for the pacifier, of course. I thought that he might squirm but he just sat there very patiently. I watched in anticipation as Toni raised the scissors to take the first snip....and there it was. Tiny little stands of hair falling onto the top of his head; a few little clumps were gathered, placed in an envelope to go in his baby scrapbook...a somewhat odd tradition I think. Probably started my some other crazy mom centuries ago who wanted to hold on to as much of her child's infancy as she could. I have every intention of adding the keepsake to his scrapbook. That being said, I haven't even gotten pass the page with his ultrasound pictures so it might be awhile. I might just find it ten years later in a drawer with  four other little envelopes with my future children's hair. The intention is there though so that has to count for something!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

9 Months and Counting: Best Toys for Bub

One thing I tell parents time and time again is that you absolutely do not have to spend a lot of money to ensure your child has developmentally appropriate toys to play with. As discussed in past blogs, you will find most items in your household will do and they generally prefer them. How many times has your bub been obsessed with your keys or your watch? Just look around the house for items that are safe. They should not prevent a choking, suffocation or strangling hazard. Some items, like a beaded necklace, you could allow your bub to play with, but over constant supervision.

Our little Lachlan turned 9 months on Monday. I know, he is getting so big! Where has the time gone? This is generally the age where parents and friends tell me that their children are getting board of their toys or they are out growing them and ask what should they buy. Well, before you go whipping out the credit card, look around your house. Cartons and bottles filled with beans and rice are a must. Make some of various sizes; ones he can shake and others he can roll and chase. Measuring spoons are also a favourite and small pans. Don't forget about pastry brushes and mini rolling pins; these are lots of fun for baby too.

If you want to spend money: nesting cups, ring stackers and a hammer and peg board have to be my three favourite items that are worth buying. They all require the use of problem-solving which is important to cognitive development and later on will aid in the social-emotional area. Try to find nesting cups that have holes at the bottoms of them for draining water. They can then be used to experiment with in the bathtub or sandbox. Green Sprouts has a nice set which are BPA-free. Nesting cups will also carry their value for a long time as your toddler and then preschooler will still find functions for them- perhaps for a tea party or to mould mudpies?...mmmmm, mudpies... Regarding the stacking rings and hammer and peg board, I love wooden ones- but I'm a wooden toy fanatic. Plastic ones will be just as beneficial. You can also use these toys to teach colour recognition and opposites; such as big and small.

By this age, you should also have a low cupboard that your baby is allowed to access. Even if he can't crawl to it yet, he can sit there and practice opening and shutting the door and taking things out. If he puts things back in then be amazed because that is a good baby! :-) All the items mentioned earlier would be great to go into the cupboard. A helpful hint: put all the soft and smaller items on the top shelf and toys with are made of wood or are heavier on the bottom. This way when bub pulls them down, it will be easier and not hurt if they land on his head. I got a smashing deal on a wooden kitchenette set I found on sale for 10 bucks, originally 70! I was excited- you gotta look over those sale racks! I just took the legs off of it so it is low to the ground and the perfect height for Lachlan. We secured it the side of a bookshelf so it can't topple over. He is loving exploring the doors and cranking the knobs.

Now is also a great time to introduce some social play items to your baby. Have an unused mobile (cell) or old telephone? Your bub will love to try to imitate you. Lachlan actually just started holding his play phone up to his ear cute! If it is an old phone with a chord, please remove the chord for safety reasons. A baby doll (one which can get wet) is also a wonderful item to introduce now. I could name off a million activities for this one, but those will have to be in another blog! The doll is SOOOO important to developing social skills. If you have a son and have a complex about him playing with dolls, then please get over it. Don't make that his complex, too! You'll be grateful you gave your son a doll to play with when he grows up to be a nurturing man! Plus, it is a most helpful learning tool. Bub can learn about body parts, feelings, how to put the baby to bed, etc. Introducing the doll to bath time will also help your child learn how to bath himself one day. Give the doll a wash first singing..."This is the way we wash our hair" song. Continue with each body part and then wash your bub. Before long he'll be grabbing the wash cloth wanting to have a turn. Let him have a go. At this stage he will probably just flap it around the tub and on his body, which is fine. When he is finished go back and wash the millions of spots he missed.

If your bub is already crawling, you will need to create a cozy, private place where he can now go to escape and have quiet time to himself. Look out for my next blog on how to make a ribbon house! I'll be making this cozy, fascinating place for Lachlan once he begins to become more mobile and will post pictures and instructions.Won't be long....

Lachlan's Latest Reading Picks

As you know, we are big fans of the public library. We very much enjoy nursery rhyme hour, playing with the other bubs and perusing though the children's board books. It is a wonderful place and I don't understand why more people don't make use of it. It amazes me when I tell people I check out books at the libary and they look at me as if a light bulb has just been switched on and say, 'Gee, I don't know why I never thought of that...' Well, think about it!...It is a wonderful place to borrow books at no cost to you (assuming you can get your tushy back to the drop-off box by their due date) If not just go online and renew them for another 3 weeks. Gotta love that!

We checked out some new books over the course of the last month and also a few baby cds including, Baby Einstein's Meet the Orchestra and Bush Baby. I recommend Meet the Orchestra as it introduces babies to the sounds of each indiviual intrument. There are studies that show that listening to melodies with a single instrument help with brain development. There is then a part where you have to guess what instument is now playing...could be even challenging for grown-ups who didn't play in a band. I had fun outsmarting my hubby who seems to be a scholar in all things. I have to impress him any chance I get! Finally, it blends all the instruments starting from a solo, a duet, etc. Lachlan enjoys playing his keyboard during the symphony.

Bush Baby is a compilation of tracks inspired by sounds of the Australian bush with an Aboriginal feel. This is the first CD I played where Lachlan actually got into trying to 'dance' with the rhythm by imitating me; waving his arms in the air and bouncing around. He is a definite be-boper!

Lachlan's Library Picks:

Baby Einstein: Meet the Orchestra (CD)
Bush Baby (CD)
That's Not My Monkey... (Usbourne Touchy-Feely board book...surprisingly not a favourite as he LOVES all the others)
Bush Babies (board book)
Peek-a-boo Baby

New Editions to our home library:

That's Not My Mermaid... (so far a big hit. loves all the textures, especially the mermaid's scaly tail)
That's Not My Dinosaur...
Hide and Seek Santa (Flip-a-flap)
Hide and Seek Snowman (Flip-a-flap)

It has been a lot of fun watching Lachlan master the flip-a-flap books. I picked these up at a dollar shop and they were surprisingly of very good quality and actually more than 4 pages! The flaps open different directions on various pages so Lachlan really had to think about how the next flap was different from the one before it. I notice that he has favourite pages. Ones he gets very smiley about and starts the doggie panting or he will grab the book from me and immediatley look for that page and then play with it until he is over it. We have also revisited his very first board book; Colors Flip-a Face. He now seems to recognise what glasses are as when he sees those pages now he get sooooooo excited and fiddles with the pages endlessly. I believe it is because his father wears glasses as do I in the evenings at home. He is constantly trying to grab them and his told, "Gentle, mommy's glasses." He must like the ones in the book because he can grab them all he likes!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The World Through Yellow-Coloured Glasses

One of the things that always seems to fascinate me about infants is the way in which they experience the world. If only we would remember how it was to obtain joy in the most simple, mundane tasks; to look at an everyday object and note all its unique characteristics in amazement and awe. It is so rare now a days to look at something which is fresh and new. Instead we go about our day eating the same old breakfast and driving the same route to work. Occasionally we might be awaken out of auto pilot to say, "Hey, when did they add raisins to this cereal" or "Gee, looks like the neighbours painted their fence." At what point do we slip into this mode and see an apple as just an apple and not as a bright, red circle that is smooth and sweet to smell; something that we would gladly explore for half an hour.

For obvious reasons, exploration is a huge component to experience. If a child grows up in a house which is like a museum, where nothing should be touched or moved from its place, the child will have little opportunities to experience how things around him work. He most likely will be less apt to explore the world outside of his own for fear that if he touches something, he will be reprimanded. Children look to adults for cues of what is acceptable and unacceptable and how to respond in certain situations; this is called social referencing. In a way, we train our children how to react. For example, if Lachlan topples over on the floor, he may not react if he didn't feel pain. He will look to me though for answers to what just happened. If I gasp and he sees a worrisome look on my face, he will most likely begin to cry. He cries despite the fact that there was no pain because when he looked to me, my face told him that something bad has happened and he should be worried too. If I were to instead respond to him with a smile and start laughing (assuming he felt no pain) he probably would still be stunned, but then put a grin on his face. (Although, a whole other topic, I should add that if I were to laugh despite the fact that he had felt pain, I could be setting my child up for insecurities in the future as he would questions whether or not his feelings were valid. When adults sneer or blow off a child's feelings, they are left thinking, "Why do I feel sad when mom thinks this is funny? Something must be wrong with me!" This only creates low-self esteem in children and should be avoided at all costs. Please read Gottman's Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, for techniques on Emotion-Coaching, or attend one of my parent workshops where we discuss this method. I'll save all that for another blog, though!)

In our house, pretty much everything is a go. If I don't want something touched or broken, it is not put out. At least not at this stage where will power and curiosity is at its strongest and the word 'no!' is still not fully understood. At Lachlan's age, he's trying to pair 'no!' and my facial expression together to figure out exactly what it all means. There will be plenty of time down the track to teach him what is off limits. When this time comes, I will gradually introduce my decorative favourites back into the house; giving him a chance to succeed in resisting temptation one at a time. If you want to keep all of your precious belongings out and believe that the best way is to teach children by trial and error, (which is wonderful!), taking safety into account, do so, but don't be upset or disappointed if that family heirloom vase gets shattered into a million pieces; some things, just may not be worth the risk.

Last week during Lachlan's mealtime, he was exploring his bowl and spoons (I always give him his own set to play with while I feed him), he discovered that if he held the bowl up to his face, he could see through it. Not only could he see through the plastic bowl (BPA-free, of course!), he was able to see the world with 'yellow' eyes. (The bowl is yellow for those mom's with mommy brain, who missed Lachlan appeared to think this was absolutely amazing. He continued to cover his face with the bowl and peer at me through the centre. He would remove the boy from his face and have a good chuckle. This continued for several minutes. Next he discovered that he could breathe into the bowl and make the same Darth Vader impersonations that he does with his salt shaker. I could have sworn I heard him say, "Luke, I am your father..." Although I could have been hallucinating as a teething baby kept me up quite a bit the night before...

It should not be a surprise that children find joy from the most common instruments that we think are dull or boring or look at as serving only one purpose. Children on the other hand find multiple uses for these items. Plastic bowls for example become yellow-coloured glasses, a cool voice alternator, a drum, a floating boat, a hat...the possibilities are endless in the mind of a child. Your bub would of course love for you to share your creativity so show him something he can do with them; clank them together and see if he will follow your lead. It is best to let children explore at their own pace. Demonstrate something a few times while he is watching, set the items down and leave him to determine if he wants to have a go. When he is ready or interested, he will try them out for size. Insisting or forcing a baby to experience something before he is ready can have negative long term consequences; just ask parents who have force fed their children for example- they most likely have fussy eaters as a result and a power struggle during meal times. Exploration should be a fun experience where the baby sets the pace; this is the way to paving a road full of fun, trust and self-confidence!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Favourite Foods

We have been having a lot of fun testing Lachlan's palate. He has become such a wonderful eater, trying eagerly all foods that are brought before him. At this time, Lachlan does not eat meat, so it is important that we provide well balanced meals that are jam packed with vitamins and minerals. This is especially important for infants six months and older as iron stores begin to deplete and they need to get them from an outside source. Breastfed babies will absorb the most iron, but still not the daily recommended allowance. Formulas and cereals are available fortified with iron, but do not assume that your baby will absorb all the iron in the serving. Egg yolk is a wonderful source of iron and if there is not a history of egg allergy in your family, it makes a wonderful additional to mango or banana mash. You'll want to mash it in with a ripe and flavourful fruit in order to eliminate the powdery taste hard boiled yolks render.

Protein is also important for growing bodies, which is another issue that parents of vegan or vegetarian babies need to consider. At this time I do not plan on giving Lachlan meat until he is one year of age, though I plan on introducing fish later on this week. This is a personal choice, as I find meat to be one of the hardest foods to digest. I'd rather wait for his intestines to mature a bit more before the introduction of meat, especially beef. To make sure that Lachlan gets enough protein, I make him beans or lentils with rice.

Lachlan has also started dairy products. We began with ricotta cheese, which he enjoys with mashed banana and cantaloupe (rock melon). He has also had cheddar cheese, which I add to my Cheesy Mash recipe. Although yogurt is a favourite starter food for infants, we have opted to avoid until he is over a year. My husband recently attended a conference where research scientists found that early introduction to yogurt can actually damage the balance of a babies natural, good bacteria in their gut. The children in the study had eaten various popular brand yogurts that have added cultures to them. Those babies that avoided these yogurts, had healthier, stronger guts. The studies were still preliminary, but it is enough for me to hold off. After all, he doesn't know what he is missing!

Below are some of Lachlan's Food Favourites:

Monster Mash

Mash half and organic banana, one free-range hard-boiled egg yolk and organic ricotta (amount to desired consistency). If too thick, add either water, formula or breast-milk.

Cheesy Mash

Bake six small organic potatoes in the oven until tender and the skins are all wrinkled.  When finished, peel of skins mash.
While potatoes are baking, finely dice half of a small onion and grate 1/4 cup of mild, organic cheddar cheese. Add to warm potato mash and mix well. I like to use a staff mixer. You may add water or milk/formula to reach desired consistency. Divide into baby food storage containers to freeze leftovers.
Note: The first time I gave this to Lachlan, it was not his favourite so I added a little sweet potato that I have stored to it. Now he loves it on its own and it is one of his favourites.

Organic Baby Biscotti

This recipe can be found in Lisa Barnes', The Petit Apetit cookbook. Lachlan absolutely loves them and they are good for mum and dad to eat with tea, too! Whatever is left of Lachlan's biscotti, our dog, Maxwell gobbles up.

Milestone Moment: Our Little Inch Worm

Lachlan has finally decided that he would like to give crawling a go! Of course many babies like to crawl forwards as they try to obtain something within their reach, not my little man. He has decided that he prefers to go backwards! He looks like a little inch worm as he gets on his knees and pushes back on his hands. Our little caterpillar likes to back track it until an obstacle stops him; such as the wall or until he gets stuck under the couch.

If you have a little backwards inch worm of your own, you can encourage him to crawl forward with these tips:

1) Place an object of interest just out of his reach to encourage him to reach forward, after all, reaching is the precursor to crawling!

2) With your bub on his tummy, sit behind him with your hands on the bottoms of his feet, like a 'kick-off' board. As bub begins to reach forward for a toy, allow him to push-off of your hands. Your hands will give him some traction. Babies tend to naturally move there legs in a breast-stroke or 'frog-like' swim. if he happens to push off of your hands and move forward a bit to grab a toy, he will be most likely to do it again.

I've been doing these exercises with Lachlan and he gets so excited when he pushes off my hands. He generally just needs a few pushes and then he begins to move like a frog as quickly as he can, trying to heave his body forward. When it fails, he metamorphoses back to an inch worm and before you know it I have to rescue him from the dust bunnies that live under our couch!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Milestone Moment: Car Seat

First Forward-Facing Car Ride

Well, our little man is growing up! His daddy had to turn around his car seat yesterday to the forward-facing position. What an exciting moment for Lachlan. He was mesmerized by his new view. He also had a special treat because it began to pour buckets of rain during our trip and he was fascinated by the windshield wipers!

Baby Sign Language

During the summers while I was a high school student, I worked as a Park and Recreation Director. It was a fun job that entailed planning activities for children and supervising them while on field trips. I was blessed with the opportunity to work with a six year old boy, named Jared, who was deaf. I decided to learn sign language so that I could communicate with him more easily and so that Jared could also feel like he had a friend in the program who could understand him. Jared and I formed a very special bond. In many ways I became his protector. He loved to give me a cuddle and rest his head on my shoulder. In my hugs, I think he found a safe haven; a place where he could tune out the world that so often didn't understand him.

Jared would often become frustrated with the other children or staff when they could not communicate him; often which was portrayed through mild forms of aggression. I would step in and try to calm him down and talk to the other children about ways in which they could make their play easier and more enjoyable. The other children became very interested in sign language and by the end of the summer, Jared had formed several friendships with the other children. I remember once walking past a picnic table and seeing Jared underneath it with another friend. He had her hand and was placing her fingers in the right position to sign the word, 'duck.' Before I knew it they were both laughing and 'quacking' away. It melted my heart to see such happiness radiate from Jared, so much different than the little boy who first came to the park to play. To this day I can still hear their little giggles in my head; a thought that brings a huge smile to my face every time.

Five years later, I was able to use my knowledge of sign language while working as a Group Leader in a day care nursery. I began signing simple and frequently used words; such as: milk, more, eat, drink, gentle and sleep. The other staff and I were amazed at how quickly the children picked up the signs. Before we knew it, we had a group of little baby signers. We were so proud of them! We were also proud of ourselves for our diligence and consistency which really paid off. We weren't the only ones who reaped the rewards; the babies were less frustrated because they found a pre-verbal way to communicate with us. There was far less guessing on what an individual child wanted; needs were meet with a simple sign. It was fun to see the faces on astonished parents when they noticed their little bub could speak a language that they hadn't even mastered. Parents and grand-parents would tell us how wonderful it was to be able to communicate with their precious little ones. Parents also reported that they felt more comfortable leaving their children with a babysitter, because they worried less about whether or not the sitter could understand their children's wants. All they would have to do was look at chart of baby signs to figure out the children's cues. After all, if baby is happy, everyone is happy!

For the last two months, my husband and I have been working on sign with Lachlan. He began to show the common signs of readiness; looking at where I am pointing, reaching and starting to wave his hand. My husband and I decided to teach Lachlan American Sign Language (ASL), despite the fact that we live in Australia. The main reason for this is because I  find that the American signs that a bub would use are much easier to mimic than those of the Australian Sign Language. For example, in Australian sign language, to make the sign for 'daddy,' one must straighten the two pointer fingers while keep the other fingers curled up in a fist (as if pointing to something), while tapping the top finger onto the bottom. This can be very difficult for a little baby as opposed to the American sign which is just keeping the fingers unfolded on your hand (as to give a High-5) and tapping the thumb to the forehead. Also the majority of resources such as books and flashcards, are based on ASL and not Australian. ASL is just a better fit for our family, especially since I already know the basics.

Besides the wonderful pre-verbal communicative advantages, studies have shown that sign language in infancy fosters verbal language development. Research indicates that children who know sign language during infancy, will have higher verbal language skills than those who did not sign as infants.

If you are interested in exploring the wonderful world of sign language and sharing in this experience with your baby, there are numerous resources that can help you on your adventure. The public library is a great place to start as there are so many great baby sign books that you can check out which will also explain in depth the many benefits of signing. The internet also has some great sites that are helpful for the 'non-reader' audience such as; Your Baby Can Talk or Signing Savvy, which is my favourite as it has a video dictionary you can search, which will demonstrate the sign.

 At the moment Lachlan is very interested in watching what I am doing with my hands. He stares intently and moves his hands, unsure of what he is supposed to do with them. Continue to check back as I track Lachlan's signing progress.  Until next time, Happy Signing!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fruit Fun

Exploring an avocado, lime, apricot, banana and kiwi.

Today Lachlan and I went to our local Co-op to pick up this week's produce. It also ended up being a great sensory experience for Lach. He watched me with great interest from his high chair while I was inspecting this week's goods and unpacking them. I decided to give him several fruits to explore. Fruits and vegetables make great sensory items because they have fun textures, such as; a furry peach or kiwi or a prickly pineapple. They also have interesting smells and unusual shapes for novice fingers to explore. Plus, most fruit in their whole form (with the exceptions of small ones) are relatively safe for children to play with. So don't just add fruit to your bub's diet, add a little to his play!

Library Days

Last Saturday was a very special day for Lachlan. He received his very first library card. I know that he is only seven months old and can't appreciate this milestone, but I couldn't help but feel very proud of him just the same. I was smiling from ear to ear when the librarian handed over the plastic card with my son's name on it. "Before you know it," I told her, "I'll be going with him to get his driver's license."

I really would have liked to share this moment with Lachlan when he is a bit older and could appreciate the significance of getting his first library card. It is a great learning process. However since I maxed out my check-out limit on my card and wanted to also get some books for Lachlan, his own card was needed much sooner. As he grows, I will explain to him how special books are and how to care for them properly; especially those from the library, which we borrow. The library is a wonderful teacher for the lesson of sharing: "We borrow these books to enjoy and take care so when we are done, we can return them to share with others." The library is also of great use to me professionally when I design intervention programs. For children that struggle in the area of life skills, the library serves as a place to foster that development through its many processes: looking up a book in the library catalouge, locating it on the shelf and checking it out. Children learn how to be responsible for the books they borrow and must keep track of the due date. They also learn consequences if the book is not returned on time, such as there will be a fine. For the time being, the library for Lachlan is a place where we go each week to sing-a-long with the 'story lady', do finger plays and chat with friends.

 I really hope that Lachlan will learn to love the library as much as I did as a child. The mid-west town in which I grew up, did not have much excitement to offer for children, especially in the winter months. I remember how much I would look forward to an outing at the 'place with all the books!' During my early primary school days, I remember my mother working at the downtown bank. Sometimes my sister and I would be dropped off at her work by our father. Often my mom would still be busy with a client and we would have to wait for her. My mother would suggest to my sister to walk us across the street to the library so we wouldn't be bored (those were the days when you could trust your children to do such a thing and not worry about their safety.Oh, how times have changed!) Once at the library, my sister and I would go our separate ways. It was an Eden for us both. We would both get lost in our own little literary world; I would sink myself down into some smelly old bean bag chair and begin getting into mischief with Curious George or helping Clifford save the day once again. I'm not really sure what world my sister was in. Most likely she was solving some mystery with Nancy Drew or perusing the foreign language section. We'd only join up again after our mother would track us down and tell us it was time to go...bummer!

I was also fortunate that there was a library close to the subdivision where we lived. Again, my sister and I would go there together though this time on our little banana seat bikes- though eventually we did change with the times and sport 5-Speeds. The banana seats had baskets though, which were handy to carry all the books home. That is the price to be 'cool.' Practicality is replaced with 'hip.' But that's enough nostalgia for the day. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I hope one day, my little man will find his own smelly old bean bag where he can cozy up and get lost in a special book that will take him on his very own imaginary adventure.

 Lachlan's October Reading List:

Public Library:

  • Baby Fun: Hush, Little Baby, Don't Say a Word
  • Bright Baby: Baby Animals (touch and feel) 
  • That's Not My Truck... by Usbourne Touchy Feely Books

    Home Library:

    • Bye-Bye Bear (book puppet) by Cartwheel Books
    • That's Not My Pony... by Usbourne Touchy Feely Books
    • That's Not My Dog... by Usbourne Touchy Feely Books

      Thursday, October 8, 2009

      Milestone Moment: Those Blasted Buttons

      Last week my husband began noticing that Lachlan was realising that the buttons on his toys have a purpose. He has one book that his grandmother gave him with an interactive button. If you press the green button, the book will sing a short song, play a melody and count to ten. Lachlan generally wakes up an hour before me and my husband. My husband will get him out of his cot and put him in our bed for the last hour, hoping that we can get a few extra moments of shut eye: this has always been the case, as Lachlan will lay between us while exploring a cloth book. A few days ago I gave him the book with the button, which was a mistake in terms of achieving extra sleep. He was very eager to prove to us that he in fact knew where to find this little button and continued to press it over and over again. He did this for a good fifteen minutes. He was very proud of himself and I didn't want to burst his bubble by taking away the book. He's been teething again and more irritable. It was too early to deal with an emotional blowout. By that time, my husband and I were wide awake anyway. How could we sleep with the interactive voice of the book, which was so gosh, darn chipper? I wanted to tell the female voice exactly where she could shove her numbers and nursery rhymes. Fortunately for her the feeling quickly subsided as I watched my son smiling and giggling. Plus, I didn't want his first word to be a four letter one.

      It looks like we have now entered the world of very annoying interactive toys. Thank goodness we don't have many of them and most were gifts. Part of me thinks this is karma nipping me in the butt. When one of my friend's had his first child, I bought his daughter a very loud, interactive bongo drum. He cursed me and that drum for a very long time. When he had a son, and it was his first birthday, I bought him an interactive tee-ball set. A loud, husky voice would yell, "Home run!" and then sing 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game.' It was like having Harry Carey in your living room. I though it was great. My friend-- not so much. The best part was when it would chant, "Hey, batter, batter! Hey, batter, batter! SWIIIIIING!" I have a feeling that this noisy toy replica, met a real Louisville Slugger by the end of the first week, that sent it to the annoying toy graveyard.....R.I.P.

      So far, so good with us, though. I am handling the noisy book, the loud piano and even the maracas that sing in both English and Spanish. I've even grown to love Leap Frog Scout (he really is cute and is personalised according to Lachlan's interests). Those are the only interactives that have joined our family thus far, and I am okay with that. Lachlan prefers the real deals anyway. He loves his homemade shakers, wooden maracas, Indian bells and baby castanet. They give mom and dad less of a headache also which is a BIG bonus! Also, I wouldn't be using my degree if I didn't state that these toys are much better for your child developmentally anyway. The young mind has to work in a more complex way when it actually has to THINK about how a sound was made and WORK to try to replicate it in the same way, versus instant gratification that a simple button brings. I mean, where is the fun in that and after awhile, it just becomes, well...annoying!

      Sunday, October 4, 2009

      Out & About: Travelling and Everyday Essentials

      When you are a new parent, there is a lot to learn. Lachlan continues to teach me things that I never learned while completing my degree. Like many moms, my husband and I also learn by trial and error. Today I was thinking about the first family trip we took with Lachlan. He was about seven weeks old and my husband thought it would be nice to surprise me with a getaway for my birthday. I was more then up for it as I was eager to get out of the house and to have a reason to wear some different clothes. For the past seven weeks I had been sporting around sweat pants and shirts that smelled like curdled milk. Let's not even get started on the hair. Let's just say that it looked like Amy Winehouse and I shared the same stylist. I was in need of some sprucing up and a trip out to Australian wine country was something to get me motivated to do so.

      I remember my husband and I packing the night before we were to head out. Our suitcase was easy, after all it was only a long weekend getaway so we didn't need much; a few jumpers, pairs of jeans, our toiletries bag and we were all set. Packing Lachlan's bag, on the other hand, was a huge challenge. I've travelled with babies many times, but never was responsible for planning their bag. My mind began to race with all the possible things that could pose a problem; spit ups or vomit-requiring extra clothes; nappy leaks at night, needing extra bedding and bassinet protector. I should take an extra set of those right? Oh, better make it three sets just in case. What if he got sick, I thought...I threw in the thermometer and panadol. The list grew and grew: his own toiletries, hats, mittens, extra muslin clothes, nappy rash cream, baby books, rattles, his favorite toy, Mortimer the Moose. I of course couldn't forget his pacifier. Hmmm...what if it falls on the ground and I can't wash it? Better pack an extra one...Before you knew it, Lachlan had more luggage than the Queen of England, stacked up next to the door casting a shadow over me and my husband's tiny duffel bag. Better safe then sorry, we thought.

      We learned our lesson on that first family vacation. We didn't even use one quarter of what we packed. It was a good practice run for the international trip we were to take 3 months later. We learned what items were of high priority and which we could do without. When flying internationally, it is best to do it with as little luggage as possible. I thought about the various items that I could share with Lachlan; such as body wash and lotion. His body lotion/balm also acts as a nappy rash cream so there was no need to double up on the same items. I also thought about how much we will be out and about during the trip. A few of his favourite toys for the flights and a palm sized board book would be plenty for our month long trip. After all, a baby is more interested in their new surroundings than anything else; that was the case with Lachlan, he didn't have much time to sit and play during our vacation as he was generally sleeping on flights the whole time, observing new people and listening to unusual sounds. The fact of the matter is we also do a lot of shopping when we travel, so we knew that we would end up buying him new clothes and new toys, eliminating the need to over pack. I limited his packing to a very small carry-on suitcase, and to be honest I didn't even use half of what I packed in there either! Like I said, the process will take a bit of trial and error, because every bub is different, but here are a few helpful ideas when out and about. At the bottom are some of Lachlan's favourite things!

      Travelling Tips
      • Try to share the same toiletries: shampoo, lotion, body wash, etc. This will make more space then packing products just for baby and those just for yourself.
      • Limit toys to a few different items. For example; avoid packing two stuffed toys and two different rattles. Pack one of each.
      • If possible, pack toys that have multiple functions, such as; a toy that serves as a teether but also rattles or crinkles.
      • Think about where you are staying.
        • If extra bedding is provided you could easily use it for your baby. For example, standard pillow cases make excellent bassinet covers if needed.
        • Is there a laundry facility to wash clothes and bedding?
        • Do family or friends in the area have an extra stroller/pram, car seat, toys, crib or pack-n-play and clothes for my baby to use if needed.
        • Do taxi companies and car rental services provide car seats?
        • Can the hotel provide a crib or bed safety rails to use?
      • If you use cloth nappies, as we do, you might want to consider using disposables just for travelling to save space, especially if you do not have access to frequent laundry facilities. They do sell bio-degradable nappies you could use instead.
      • Bring extra clothes for the flight for bub and yourself. It is not fun to have your bub's leaky nappy all over your white pants. I know from experience!
        Everyday Nappy Bag Essentials
        • Nappies and wipes, of course!
        • Wet Bag for cloth nappies and/or soiled clothes.
        • Instant Hand Sanitiser
        • Breast Pads, if breast feeding
        • Wash cloth or burp rag
        • Extra clothes for bub, spare shirt for you.
        • Sun Hat
        • Baby Leg Warmers: These are wonderful for cold flights and restuarants when out and about. They also can go on the arms. Great in the summer when you don't want to pack a pair of long pants and jumper, just in case you need them.Warmers are small and compact.
        • Forehead strip thermometers are handy to have in the nappy bag and save lots of space and cheaper to replace is lost.
        • Pacifier and Pacifier clip- very handy when out in public. If baby spits out pacifier the string will prevent it from falling on the dirty ground. Wonderful for public transportastion travel.
        • Meal-time: baby food, eating untensils, container with lid, bib.
        • A few easily washable toys, including a small book.

        Stroller/Pram Basket Items
        • Small Blanket or Towel- when you are going for a walk and would like to stop you can have a nice place to sit with your bub to feed, people watch, touch the grass or lie down under a tree and watch the leaves sway in the wind.
        • Bottle of water for yourself and for bub, (if applicable)
        • Bubbles- I love to have bubbles handy for occasions when Lachlan is loosing interest in his new surroundings. They are fascinating and great to use at the park. They are also great to keep toddlers and older children occupied.
        • A couple clothes pins- helpful if you are using a cloth to cover your pram to make shade. It will keep it secure when windy. When Lachlan was a newborn I would use it to pin up big leaves that I might find while walking for him to look at. He loved watching it move while hanging from the pram canopy.
        • Link Rings- use a link ring to attach a toy or teether to bub's harness shoulder strap. The toy can still move freely up and down the strap so he can chew it, but won't fall out of the stroller.
        • Sunscreen for summer
        • Dog Owner?- poo baggies and portable water dish. Don't allow yourself to be embarrassed if walking your dog and he decides to leave a present in your neighbours yard! Plus there is a fine in most towns if you don't pick up after your dog and it is just polite!
        When going out and about for a walk outside avoid automatically give your child a toy to play with. I often see parents out with their children and their prams are decorated like an amusement park. The main idea of going for a walk with bub should be to get him out of the house and into a more interesting environment that will stimulate him. It is a nice change of pace and sometimes some new scenery is just the thing to get a bored bub into a good mood. He shouldn't need any toys in his pram if he is interested in his surroundings. It is an important learning experience. He will observe various people, hear many sounds and pick up different smells. It is his first glimpse at how the 'real world' functions. The stroller provides a safe haven for him to be an observer, teaching him social skills to use for when he becomes an active participant. Of course if your bub becomes overwhelmed, a toy can be used to distract him or you can drape a muslin cloth over his stroller to reduce the stimuli in hopes that he can relax.

        Lachlan's Favourites:

          Monday, September 28, 2009

          Organics: Where to Buy

          Lachlan loves his organics! Many of his little friends have also jumped on the band wagon, (or should I say veggie cart?) We thought it might be helpful to share some tips on where to get organic produce.

          • Local Co-ops: Aberdoon Co-op
          • Chain Grocery Stores
            • In Australia: Woolworths, Coles (unfortunatley we have found the quality is not as nice as shops that specialise in organics) and Martenelli's
          • Local Farms: Warrah Bio-Dynamic Farm
            • Often also produce organic and/or free range eggs and dairy.
          • Farmer's Markets: Hawkesbury Harvest, Organic Food Markets, Sydney
          • Grow Your Own!
            • You'll safe lots of money and know exactly where your food came from.
            • You can't get any fresher when it's straight from your backyard!

          Basket of Treasures

          Every day seems to be a treasure hunt for Lachlan. Each room he goes into has something interesting to offer and his little hands are always eager to explore. The developmental milestones which he has accomplished thus far are allowing him opportunities to see more of the world around him. He works for objects by rolling over, reaching and leaning. He can also sit up which allows him to play with toys more freely. Lachlan was about 6 months when he began sitting on his own without support. I was very excited about this milestone because I was so eager to start introducing more little treasures for him to explore.

          I've talked before about how important sensory development is in the early years of live. A child's neurons are not fully developed until the age of two; this is why you see children constantly putting things in their mouths all the time. The mouth is the most sensitive part of their body; with it they are able to explore the sense of taste and also texture. They generally pick up an interesting toy, stick it straight in their mouth, remove the toy to examine it visually and then back in the mouth it goes and the process continues. Allowing your child access to a variety of safe objects will help foster his sensory development.

          Creating a 'treasure' basket is a wonderful way to provide various items for your bub to explore. The basket should be shallow enough for your baby to comfortably sit and lean forward to reach for objects. The objects should be small enough so an assortment will fit into the basket and also so your baby can easily grasp and play with them. The best thing about a treasure basket is that you can use various items around your house that are safe for your baby. Be creative. Think about all the different textures that you can introduce; soft, smooth, bumpy, course, fluffy- the list could go on and on! Take a look around your house and I'm sure you will find numerous things that would be appropriate for your baby to play. Here are some ideas for your basket to get your creative juices flowing:

          • Ribbons
          • Silky or Sheer Scarves
          • Sea Shells
          • Wooden Rattles
          • Wicker Balls
          • Pom-Poms
          • Small Glass Jars (filled with beans, rice, or beads)- Sealed Securely
          • Pine Cones
          • Large Gum-nuts
          • Spice or Salt Shakers (filled with lavender or rosemary leave, vanilla or cardamon pods, or coffee beans)
          • Fruit such as a lemon or apple

          As with all toys, please supervise your child while he is playing. Ensure that any bottles that contain small pieces have lids that are securely tightened with glue or tape. It is also important to frequently inspect your child's toys for signs of damage to prevent hazards.

          Your child will enjoy freely exploring his special basket filled with the many interesting objects you have given him. Glass jars will feel cold and smooth to the touch. Pine cones will feel bumpy and spice shakers filled with leaves of rosemary will waken his senses. The basket itself will likely be examined also. Baskets made out of natural fibers such as wicker or bamboo are more stimulating to the touch than regular plastic baskets. After three or four weeks, change out the objects with different ones to perk his interest. If there are particular items he favors, keep those in the basket and replace the rest. As your child gets older, add more challenging objects such as containers with lids he can open and close. You can also change out the open basket to one with a lid. Sewing and picnic baskets serve this purpose well and your child will be surprised when he peaks inside!

          Sunday, September 20, 2009

          The Chorus Line

                  Piano Play          

          There is NEVER a quiet moment in our household. How could there be, our home consists of a babbling baby, a loquacious mum, a noisy dad, a barking dog and of course...MUSIC! Oh, what would our home be like without music, beautiful music. It is certainly the key element that gets things shakin' (literally!) for us every morning. Before Lachlan was born, ABC radio was always playing in the background with classic music serenading us as we prepared breakfast. 80's hits are always a favourite in the car. While cooking in the kitchen, I generally like to spice things up with a little Cuban music. If it is a rainy day, my husband and I will sometimes lie on the couch together with a glass of wine listening to Pavarotti. Music can breathe life into any home, if you let it.
          Naturally, when there is music, there is dance. I generally have to go solo on the dance bit, though occasionally my hubby has surprised me with a waltz in the lounge room. As soon my ears hear a beat, I am off twirling and whirling around the kitchen, skipping and hopping through the hallways and leaping into the bathroom. I just can't help it. I have 'happy feet.' Friends have even told me they have driven by our house and seen some lunatic dancing in the window. Well, that lunatic is me, and I'm proud of it! I'm also proud of my husband for marrying me after knowing what he would be getting himself into. He pretty much said "i do" to a walk-on part for an on-going musical. One of these days he'll pick up the choreography; until then, he'll have to stick with the chorus line. Of course, now I have a new recruit-Lachlan. He is always eager to join in the routine and often makes up his own moves. Sometimes he's in the orchestra, tapping on his high chair with a spoon, getting that down beat; other times he is in the audience, cheering me on on watching with a critical eye.
          Children love music and rhythm. The instinctive draw towards rhythm first happens in the womb as the developing fetus is soothed by the swishing sounds of amniotic fluid and the thumping of a beating heart. Movement also creates a rhythm as the expectant-mum moves around all day, gently rocking her bub. Lachlan was very active in utero. The only times I didn't feel him move were while at spinning and aerobics class, where I'm sure he was very much jiggled to sleep! The same sensations continue after bub is born as he is rocked, bounced and 'shhh-ed' to sleep. Babies prefer these rhythymic patterns and sounds for the first three months of their lives, it isn't until after this time that they prefer the sounds of the human voice, generally the mother whose is most familiar.
          Now that Lachlan is a bit older and his memory is lasting longer, he has been showing excitement towards morning music time. The routine consists of of my husband and I groggily preparing breakfast as he patiently waits in his highchair for his rice and fruit puree. An Elizabeth Mitchell CD that his Auntie gave him plays in the background. He often gets his baby groove on, waving his arms and kicking his legs. I sing along with the music as I feed him his breakfast. It becomes more fun as he is now starting to show preference towards certain songs. After breakfast he grows tired. He rests his sleepy head on my shoulder. We share a slow-dance around the dining table. I kiss his little neck and smell his hair- these are the moments that he won't remember, but will always be so precious to me.
          Car rides are also all about him now. He has taken a liking to Dan Zanes, another CD that his Auntie, my sister, purchased for him. I don't know what it is, but every time 'Water for the Elephants' plays, he begins to squeal with excitement. I thank my sister everyday for the CDs she gave Lachaln as a gift. They are not your typical children cds. You don't feel like throwing them out of the car window after the 100th time that you have heard them. I've even caught myself riding in the car by myself singing to them. I have to remind myself that I can switch on the radio but I think,"Oh, let me listen to 'Thrift Shop' once and then I'll listen to my adult stuff." This might sound pathetic to you, but actually the music is just that catchy!
          I have always been partial to children's music that has a 'folk' feel. Don't get me wrong, the classic Mother Goose lyrics are great and so easy for small children to memorise. I like children folk songs because they too can tell silly stories, but they also tell stories in which children can relate.
          We have also recently put out music instruments for Lachlan to explore. He has some home-made shakers and drums, jingle bells, maracas and baby castanets. Yesterday I took the legs off of an electronic toddler keyboard so that he could experiment it with his hands and feet. Now that he sits up, he has gotten much joy discovering all of the keys. I expected him to really pound at the keyboard, but he daintily places his hand on the key board and wiggles his fingers. Who knows, perhaps we have a Mozart in the making! He did however discover that he could give the keys a nice pounding with his feet and has enjoyed that equally as well!
          Music is wonderful for sensory development. Different instruments provides unique sounds for the ears and they will enjoy feeling the various textures. You certainly do not have to spend a lot of money on instruments for your bub. Here are some cheap ways that I have created instruments for Lachlan:

          • Buy a pack of round bells at a craft shop. Sew them on SECURELY (remember, small parts can be a choking hazard. Always supervise child) to a pair of baby socks. Place the socks on baby's feet or hands. As he moves he will here the bells jingle, which will encourage him to do it again. You can also purchase the larger bells, place one in a sock and secure with a knot. Which makes a hand held bell. This is a great activity for development of circular reactions and also creates body awareness.
          Rattles & Shakers:
          • Take a few baby bottles or spice bottles and fill with a handful of small noodles or rice. Close securely with glue or tape. These are fun for baby to shake and roll around on the ground. 
          •  Start out buy giving bub one of his spoons while sitting in his high chair. He'll love simply hitting the tray. Also give him one of his food bowls to practice hitting. These items are small for him to manipulate easily.
          • Pots and wooden spoons are always a classic! (Long spoons are not suitable for infants as they can be dangerous without close supervision)
          • Recycled yogurt containers
          • Empty boxes; such as a shoe box taped shut. 
           Before you know it you'll have your own chorus line and orchestra right in your own home. Live it up. Show a little funk and groove to your bub and get the whole family involved!

          Friday, September 18, 2009

          The Poo Poncho

          It's a common fact that bubs are really good at eating, sleeping and pooing. They are certainly arts that will never be lost. Lachlan has particularly been 'experimenting' should I say, with the poo process. For a while now he's been testing just how long he can hold it in. I think he is trying to make publication in The Guinness Book of World Records, he may not make it but I think he might be a contender. His longest records has been 16 days when he was 5 months old. His dad and I had never so eagerly anticipated a poo as much as that one. Every time a little noise came from his nappy we would excitingly sneek a peek to see if the gates had finally opened; but there was nothing. We began to dread what the sight was going to look like when it decided to make its appearance.
          A week went by and we were scared, two weeks went by and be were terrified. We kept thinking, how much can a small, little baby hold? Then one Sunday evening when I was singing pat-a-cake with Lachlan, his cheery face began to look very serious. It was the face that parents know too well. It was day 16 and the time had finally come. Being the smart parents we are, we decided to wait it out before we rushed to the change mat. After five minutes of silence we decided it was time to survey the damage.
          I have worked with children for well over a decade and changed every kind of nappy imaginable. My husband on the other hand is a novice. Nothing could have prepared him for the sight he was about to encounter. As I undid the snaps on Lachlan's cloth nappy I braced myself for the unveiling. It was as if the little man dropped the A-bomb. He had definitely called out all the heavy artillery and unloaded all his ammo. He laid there in the soiled mess as his parents stared at his accomplishment in shock. I was stunned and somewhat impressed, I must admit. The look on my hubby's face was priceless. Lachlan on the other hand was quite proud of his work. Before we knew it he began moving his hips from side to side as if he was dancing the rumba. The sound of the squishing and sloshing will forever be imprinted in my mind. He giggled and laughed as his little hips shook providing sounds effects as we tried to get him all cleaned up. When he was born people called him Elvis. He had thick brown hair complete with sideburns. He now has the gyrating hips to go with them. He was so elated. We were just relieved that he was relieved. I'm sure in his mind he was thinking, "Thank ya, thank ya very much."  I figured well, it can't get much worse than that. I was wrong...
          A week later I was feeding Lachlan one morning and he wasn't acting quite like himself. He was passing up his scrumptious organic apple puree which generally is not like him. He is an excellent eater (as proven by all the waste build up!) I tried several different times to offer him his breakfast but he wasn't interested. He didn't even want to breastfeed so I knew something was up. I checked his nappy and low and behold there was the problem. I took him to the bathroom and laid him down on the change mat. When I undid the snaps and took a look I was relieved that the mess was very manageable. I reached over to grab a wipe and as I'm holding his little legs up, more starts oozing out like a soft-serve ice cream machine. I yelled, 'Crap!' (no pun intended) as I saw that I needed to push his nappy under his bum more before it gets on the mat. I raised his legs a little higher to do so and like a car back firing, poo came shooting out of his tail pipe at mach speed. Instinctively, I leaped to the side to get out of the way and then suddenly I heard a splat. I turned around to figure out what just happened and I find a Lachlan Original splattered all over the wall. The boy had gotten some definite leverage! Worst of all, he hit a built-in vent. ''That's going to be fun to try to clean out between all the slats,'' I thought.
          I looked down at Lachlan who just stares at me as to say, '"What? Did I do something." I'm just a little bit shocked as I've never seen poo fly throw the air like that before. I glanced down at my pants and it appeared that my cat like reflexes weren't fast enough. I stood there with poo splattered on the side of my leg. Now this, Lachlan 'gets'. This he thinks is funny and he starts giggling and doing his little rumba dance again. I call for my husband to come in from the garden and help me. He so obliviously walked into the bathroom not expecting the sight he sees. After all, it looks like a group of monkeys decided to have a fecal fight on our tiled wall and I just happened to be the monkey in the middle.
          My husband stood there jaw-dropped for a moment and then left. I thought 'Geesh, this guy has a weak stomach.' He returned with a camera and stated, "I am taking pictures so that when this little guy is older he can see what he put his parents through." He then began photographing the scene of the crime. Due to the graphic nature of the photos and for fear that my child may disown me someday when he is older, I have decided not to post them.
          Before you know it Lach is in the bathtub and daddy is cleaning up the mess. I don't know how I lucked out on the easy bit, but thankful none the less. I just can't help but to feel that part of this could been avoided if only I had some sort of poo poncho. It doesn't have to be anything fancy just something like what the Gorton's Fisherman wears. You know, bright yellow that shouts, "Aim, here! Hit me!" It would at least contain some of the mess. Some long wadders would be good, too. You could just hose down the area afterward and not worry about getting your shoes and socks wet. And of course, the yellow hat with the ear flaps would be handy for those poos that are really self-propelled and get altitude. Who knows, a handy item like this could make millions!

          Monday, September 14, 2009

          The Wean Machine

          Yes, you heard me right. The Wean Machine. Click here to check it out! I was gathering some links on BPA products for a friend and I came across this nifty little gadget. If your bub has begun solids this might be a handy utensil to have around; especially to keep in the nappy (or diaper, for my fellow Americans) bag. It mashes food to a consistency appropriate for you bub. It is portable, comes with a spoon and best of all...It is BPA-Free. Better yet, they actually sell it in Australia now and the price is quite reasonable for something you might actually use everyday. The sellers even have a since of humor, warning that it is not suitable to mash chicken wings or T-bone steaks. I suppose they need to speak in terms that even neanderthals will understand.

          I will probably have a think about purchasing this for Lachlan. It is one of those things that I can see the convenience- I don't like to lug around spoons and a fork to mash with and then the bowl and a baggy to keep it all in so it doesn't get sticky goo all over your bag. At the same time I think, is my life so busy that I can't stop for a minute and mash my bubs banana by hand. Do I really need an over-sized garlic press to do so? But hey, it does look snazzy and since I usually wear spit up on my clothes, I don't even bother to snaz up my outfits these days. Perhaps this is just the accessory I need to impress my fellow moms at play group...

          If you have the almighty Wean Machine, tell us about it. If not what do you think, is it worth it or are we a society obsessed with finding a short cut for everything?

          Sunday, September 13, 2009

          First Art Project

          A Juicy Masterpiece

          Today was a big day for Lachlan. He had his first experience as an artist! This experience came about as he was eating a strawberry for the first time today. We use a mesh feeder so he can gnaw away at the fruit safely without the worry of large chunks breaking off. It was hilarious as he initially just began sucking on the strawberry providing us with very interesting sounds effects. After about fifteen minutes he decided he had enough. He became very curious when he noticed all of the red juice left on his high chair tray. I too was curious to see what he would do with this new discovery. He didn't disappoint. As expected he got his little hands into the mess and started finger painting beautiful strawberry swirls all over the tray. I figured since his hands were a mess, why not get the feet involved. It was a great opportunity to introduce those cute little feet to some paint. I hadn't made any footprints with him yet so I was looking forward to the project. I quickly went into the kitchen and mixed together my homemade recipe for 'baby paint.' It is quick, easy and cheap! I prepare as follows:

          All Natural Baby Paint
                  Food Colouring ( I use Queen All Natural Colouring found at the grocery store which consists of plant  extracts.)

          Directions: Spoon some flour into a bowl and add a little water at a time until you achieve your desired consistency. If using as a finger paint, thicker is better. Next, mix in food colouring. It is that simple!

          I made up a green paint and applied it to Lachlan's feet with a paint brush. He was giggling and smiling so much when he felt the brush on his little feet. It must have really tickled! A great activity for sensory development. It's easiest to have two people when doing this. My husband held bub while I pressed his foot onto the paper. Heel to toe is the easiest and gives better results. If you are by yourself, sit bub in a high chair to brush paint on the foot. Put the piece of paper on a sturdy surface such as a clipboard or book and press foot on paper while he is sitting. If using a high chair, make sure he is strapped in securely and try removing the tray so his view won't be obstructed and he can watch the whole process. He will be intrigued to see what on earth you are doing with his feet!

                  First 'Foot Prints'

          To Jump or Not to Jump?

          One morning when I was attending a Parent's Group, a young mum asked the early childhood nurse who runs the sessions what she thought about Jolly Jumpers. If you you haven't been exposed to the Jolly Jumper, here is a brief description: a contraption that to me looks like a medieval chastity belt that is attached to some suspension springs. It attaches to the top of a door frame. You strap your bub in and he can bounce up and down like a bobbing head on a car dashboard. Sound exciting? Now that I have intrigued you, I'll get back to the story... the nurse decides to side step the question and knowing that I am a developmental specialist, looks and me and says, "Meg, what do you think?" I'm thinking:" Great..."

          I always dread answering this question because there is always someone who is an all out advocate for the Jolly Jumper. It is the one mom who thinks that it is the greatest invention on the planet, the next best thing since sliced bread (or the medieval chastity belt.) Like everyone else there, I'm a new mom trying to make new friends and I don't want to offend anyone so I answer with, "Let's just say my sister-in-law gave me an old one she had and I put it out on the lawn for curbside collection." Hmmm, perhaps I could have worded that better now that I think about it...

          Listen, I'm not anti-Jolly Jumper or against the use of saucers and walkers for babies, as long as they are used in short spurts and in moderation; anything longer than ten minutes for a baby, I feel is excessive. I do understand that they can be useful for busy moms when they are trying to get dinner ready or hang out the laundry. I always say safety first and if it means that you can sit your child in one and it will keep him out of harms way, then all means go for it; just please make sure that you can supervise your bub at the same time. I've heard so many stories where children have gone down a flight of stairs when using the walkers, or babies flipping forward while in bouncy seats. To prevent these things, install child gates on doorways and stairs and make sure your child has not out grown the bouncy seat. When I say 'out grown' I don't mean just in size, I also mean developmentally. There are a lot of small babies that are quite strong and with enough momentum, will launch themselves forward in a bouncy seat. Before you can even say, "Houston, we have a problem," they have already crash landed on the floor. For this reason it is extremely important to keep these seats off table and counter tops.

          Several of my friends have Jolly Jumpers and they say their little bubs absolutely love them. I have to admit that when my husband and I were at a baby and parent expo, we walked past a demonstration that consisted of five bouncy babies giving the jumper a test run and I was oo-ing and ah-ing over how adorable and hilarious they looked. Most seemed like they were enjoying it, though a couple looked like deer in headlights.
          My stance is that nothing is better for gross motor development than good ol' fashion floor time that consists of at least ten minutes of tummy time a day; and guess what: it is totally free. All you need is a floor and a baby and if you are reading this chances are you got at least one of those! The problem arises when these items are used as babysitters, which is not what the designers intended in the first place. If a baby is confined continuously, she is missing out on time where she could be moving about freely and testing out abilities that can only be accomplished when unrestrained. I have assessed a number of infants who have had gross motor delays, many of which when parents were asked, said that the babies were mostly held all day or placed in a high chair or jumper. A better option is to set up a pack-n-play if you are busy and need your baby to be in a safe place. He will at least be able to move around freely in the space, with plenty of space to practice rolling over or sitting up. By placing it in the same room you are in, you can keep a watchful eye on bub and still interact with him while you are working. Adding some interesting toys such as cloth books and shakers can be a real treat for him.

          It's pretty obvious that I don't own any of the above, and Lachlan has gotten along just fine. Believe it or not he has not suffered from boredom, despite this fact. I think you will find that most babies are content with being observers. They are happy to just sit or lay watching every move you make; this to them is fascinating and exciting stuff. I can't even describe how entranced  Lachlan gets by just watching me brush my teeth or folding clothes. That's how easy most babies are; just give them the simple life and they are happy!

          Saturday, September 12, 2009

          Why Organic?

          During my pregnancy, I made the decision that I wanted to raise an organic baby for at least the first three years of his life. I came to this decision for several reasons. The first was because of my own beliefs and knowledge regarding organic food and products. I truly believe that they area better options than artificial or modified products. I also read Dr. Alan Greene's book, Rasing Baby Green, which validated all of my opinions about organic living. He discusses how the most important time of brain development is during the first three years of life and that if a parent is going to feed their child organic food for only a short period, it should be during this phase of their life. As a professional that specialises in child development, I couldn't agree more. Optimal nutrition is a key component to brain development, which I am determined to provide for my son. Greene's book inspired me to share these thoughts with my husband, Ky-Anh. I was very surprised how receptive he was about the choice to have our baby live an organic lifestyle. When he and I first met I tried to eat organically as much as possible (or as much as I could afford while being an in-debt, American university student!). Ky-Anh wasn't opposed to this lifestyle but he was what he calls more practical about the money he spent on food. Ky-Anh, however, being the good research scientist that he is, can be persuaded with enough evidence. I stated my reasons and the matter was agreed upon with a simple,"Okay." It was that easy.

          I have to admit, since Lachlan has been born, I've been a bit of an organic fanatic. I certainly could be worse if I had access to more resources. For example, I would love to dress Lachlan in all organic clothing but: 1) there aren't that many places that sell organic clothing in our area, 2) in Australia, pure organic clothing can be really expensive and I can't justify spending that much money on infant clothing that he will grown out of in a month's time, 3) we use biodegradable laundry detergent, but it is not organic. I don't see the point of buying organic clothing if not washed in organic detergent. It defeats the purpose. (If you know of an organic brand that actually gets out tough stains let me know. We've tried several but as of yet can't find one that lives up to the other stuff.) I do however buy toys that are organic or made with all natural products such as the 'Under the Nile' cotton teethers or Heimess wooden toys. These are items that spend a great deal of time in his mouth so I try to make sure that they are as safe as possible. I don't like the idea of him sucking on plastic toys that are not BPA-free which could break down and leach chemicals over time.
          I am also very particular about what products I put on Lachlan's skin. Unfortunatley, Lachlan inherited my skin: dry and very sensitive. We basically have to bathe him in warm water only or he will develop a rash or his skin will dry out. Luckily, Ky-Anh found that the salve base we use to create the organic skin products we make at home for our family is a wonderful moisturiser and doesn't irritate his skin. The salve base is made out of all certified organic ingredients including cocoa butter, shea butter and beeswax. It even makes a great all natural hair gel! After I massage it on Lachlan's skin, I use the excess on my hands to give him his stylish punk rocker hair that he often sports around. To protect his skin from the hot Australian sun, we use UV Natural Sunscreen. The company makes one formulated for babies and does not contain any nano-particles that may absorb into the skin. We tested this sunscreen out for the first time on our beach holiday visiting family in Florida last month and it worked really well. It was gentle on his skin and blended into his skin tone really well; non nano-particle sunscreen is made out of zinc oxide which is white and doesn't absorb, the UV Natural sunscreen is tinted to match your skin so you won't look like a ghost on the beach, or a cricket league player.

          The biggest kick I have gotten on is making organic baby puree. I have literally gotten addicted to the process. We grow quite a bit of our own organic vegetables and fruit in our garden. There is something very beautiful about sharing my veggie garden with Lachlan. It is probably one of my favourite times of the week. He patiently sits in his ergo carrier while I pull carrots and cut sugar snap peas from the vines. I will pick some fresh herbs such as basil or rosemary for him to smell. It makes such a wonderful sensory exercise for him; one that many parents often forget to include in their daily activities with their child. We then make our way back into the house. He sits in his high chair and listens to the water run as I wash what we just harvested. He intently watches as I peel the carrots or trim the peas; he then hears the water in the steamer boiling, telling me that it is ready for the vegetables. As the vegetables steam he becomes engrossed in a toy, but as soon as he hears the food processor turn on, he perks his head up and stares at me like a wide-eyed possum. It isn't until I present him with a bib that he really gets excited. As soon as he takes a bite out of the sweet carrots, he wiggles around like there is a party in his mouth. I hope he will always be this excited about vegetables!

          A lot of  nutrition theroists believe that organic fruits and vegetables are higher in antioxidants because they have to build up a strong resistance to fight off disease and pests. If this is true it really does make organics super foods. I certainly noticed the difference between the apples my husband buys for himself and the organic ones I purchased for Lachlan. I could smell the sweet fragrance from the organic apples while standing in the kitchen, which I never noticed with the other apples. If it means a few spots on my apples to get that kind of quality, I'll take it. Speaking of which, I'm sure there is something in the kitchen just waiting for me to puree so I better get to it!

          A Love for Books

          Since the day Lachlan arrived home from the hospital, I immersed him in books. I remember visitors coming to the house to meet our new bub for the first time and laughing when they saw I had board books out already. They smiled and said, "starting early are we?" The answer was, "Of course!"

          Children learn to love books if you read to them from an early age. Obviously, you don't have to start your bub out on the great works of Shakespeare, simple board books with contrasting colours is what fascinates them the most when they are newborns. Lachlan was enthralled by the book, Flip-a-Face, Colors. This simple book has very basic shapes of children faces with simple terms such as, 'Hair' on the left side and 'No Hair' on the contrasting page. The picture only consists of a few colours as to not over stimulate and to make it easier to see various contrasts on the pages. After sitting down and reading this to Lachlan everyday, he began to get excited when ever I would take the book out. He displayed his enthusiasm by smiling, waving his arms up and down and eventually giggling.

          Books continue to be an important part of his daily routine. When he wakes up in the morning at 6 AM and lies in our bed (while my husband and I try to get an extra hour of shut eye) he plays with a cloth book and giggles and squeals. There are also several cloth books out for him to explore during his play time on the floor and he even has a few bath books that he likes to read while mom gives him a scrub-a-dub-dub. The evening always ends with the reading of three books which is a great way to wind down before he goes to bed.

          In adherence to principles of Dr. Maria Montessori, it is also important to allow children to explore objects on their own terms. Often we are eager to read a story and only allow babies to touch the pages for a moment and then move their tiny hands out of the way so that we can flip to the next page. I used to do that when Lachlan was a newborn, but now that he has become more active and his independence is beginning to emerge, I have enjoyed sitting back and watching to see what he will do with the books. One day when he was about five months old, my husband and I were reading him a story and we began to notice that he was trying to flip the page. At first we thought it was a fluke, but he constantly reached for the right side of the book and pulled the page to the left. It ended up becoming fixation for him. As soon as he turned one page he immediately grabbed the next boarded page and did the same thing. At that moment,  this experience was more beneficial than listening to me read words from the page. He had completely tuned out the rest of the world and was solely focused on this task. As Montessori stated, this repetitiveness is very important to children when it comes to exploring their environment and figuring out how the world around them works.

          Currently, Lachlan is finding joy from touch-and-feel books. Our book time routine before bed has become a longer process as he likes to take several minutes exploring each page. I am fascinated as I watch him crinkle flaps, fold inserts of pages and daintily reach his little hand to brush soft textures. As I write this he is pulling a little monkey's tail in one of his jungle books. So I suppose I better go join in his fun monkey business adventure!

          Lachlan's Top Book Picks (0-6 months)

          Flip-a-Face Books
          You're Not My...(series)
          Lamaze Cloth Books
          Taggies Books
          Hello? Hello? (cloth telephone book)

          Friday, September 11, 2009

          Tummy Time Tips

          A common question I often get from new moms is; 'how can I make my child like tummy time?" It is a fact that many bubs don't particularly enjoy being on their stomachs. This time however is  very important to their development as it helps them build strength in their arms, shoulders and back. Lachlan wasn't particularly found of being on his tummy at first either but here are some tricks that made it much more enjoyable for him:

          1. When your bub is on his tummy, get down on the floor in front of him so that he can see your face and share in your enthusiasm. Give him lots of praise for his efforts.

          2.Give your little man (or girl) a massage! Lachlan absolutely loves being on his stomach during his evening massage. He enjoys arching his back as much as he can and turning his head to try to see what I am doing.

          3. Use a bolster to help support his chest. This will make it much more comfortable for him while he is on his tummy and allow him to build strength in his arms. Simply use a bolster pillow or make your own by rolling up a towel and securing the ends with soft bands (make sure your baby can't take them off as they could be a choking hazard).Place the bolster under your bub's chest and underarms with his arms stretched out in the front. Lachlan doubled his tummy time tolerance after I made a bolster for him. If he got tired he simply laid his head to the side on the bolster until he was ready to push up again. It also allowed him to practice reaching for objects more easily.

          4....and my most favourite!....Lie on your bed or sofa with your head and back propped up a bit as if you were comfortably lying and reading. Put your bub on your chest tummy down. Talk, laugh, sing songs and smile. Many bubs love this position as they can easily gaze in your arms, feel the warmth of your body and feel secure with your arms or hands supporting their bum so they won't slide off. A word of advice: put down a little towel of burb rag to catch any drool that most likey will fall you way!

          The Journey Begins...

          I have never been much of a blogger. Actually this is my first blog site that I have ever created but I hope it will be informative and create a few memorable moments in your household for you and your child.

          So why did I create Learning with Lachlan, you may ask? For starters, Lachlan is my 6 month old son. My husband and I have family that live halfway around the world. What could be better than this blog for them to keep tabs on him? Secondly, as a mom, and a child and family development professional, I constantly have friends, family and clients ask me if I have any ideas for fun activities to do with their children. And the answer is-yes! I do... and lots of them! I hope that some of these ideas will be useful to you perhaps when you are stuck at home on a rainy day or looking out the window when the sun is shining and thinking what could we do on such a lovely day?

          I also get a lot of questions regarding behavioural advice relating to temper tantrums, toilet-training, transitioning to childcare, etc. For helpful tips on these subjects you will have to visit my professional website at where I have numerous links and "Helpful Hints" articles full of useful information.

          This site though, is dedicated to the learning journey I am taking with my first child, Lachlan. He has already taught me more things than I could have ever imagined, so much more than any of the sentences in my university textbooks ever could. Of course, everyone told me that my life would change once I gave birth to my son. I certainly believed them but never knew it would be as good as this. My husband and I feel blessed every day to be the proud parents of a beautiful, thriving baby boy. A baby boy who at this very moment sleeps tucked up in his cot right now, oblivious that he has begun the most amazing journey we call life. I hope you will follow me as I continue learning with Lachlan.