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: