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!