Tag Archives: Infant learning

Learning to be a Respectful Parent

It took 18 months of parenting before I realised I was on a dangerously downward spiralling path with my children, pushing them further away and slowly undermining their sense of confidence in themselves and trust in me. As I read more and more about the RIE philosophy, I made significant changes to my parenting approach to become a more respectful and reflective parent for my children. The changes subsequently seen in our household were instant and considerable. Suddenly parenting made more sense. I began really communicating with the girls and was able to slow down and enjoy so many more moments with them – yep even the hard ones! You can read more about my introduction to RIE here.

I began this blog just over six months ago with the hopes to inspire even just one person to become a more mindful and respectful parent as they take on one of life’s greatest roles. I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams that my little stories would be so well received and that people from all over the world would read them. I have learned so much about myself and my family along the way and feel blessed to be a part of such a supportive community both on the blog and through my Facebook page (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids) I still continually find such strength and encouragement in talking to people about their own respectful parenting journey through these mediums.

If you are visiting for the first time, thank you for taking the time to pop by. My name is Kate and I am a mother of two beautiful toddlers 13 months apart in age. These two munchkins feature heavily in my posts as they are my inspiration and my guides as I negotiate the twists and turns of the Lucy and Penny roller coaster.

I have put together some of my favourite posts here if you wanted to read a little more about some of our stories.

Caring for Emotions

Intense Emotions - Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

When Extreme Emotions Take Over a Toddler

I have a Daughter With Intense Emotions

Coping With a Toddler’s Emotional Outbursts

Damage Limitation Following a Parental Meltdown

Discipline

Emotions ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Coping With a Limit Tester

Punitive vs Nurturing Discipline

‘That’s Too Loud, Mummy!’

Could NOT Forcing a Toddler to Share Help With Sharing Conflicts?

The Secrets to Successfully Sportscasting my Children’s Struggles

Confidence and Natural Development

Confidence ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Rebuilding a Child’s Confidence

Can Young Children be Better Served by Not Teaching Them?

Allowing Children to Play For Their Age and Stage

The Joy of Natural Development

Communication

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Changing The Change Table Relationship

How RIE helped Diagnose a Potentially Serious Condition in Our Baby

Play

Play ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

What’s in a Toy?

Taming the Toys

Our Weekly Play Series (Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7)

Increasing Attention Span in Toddlers Through Purposeful Play

Using Provocations to Extend an Interest

Our Weekly Play: Week 7

Very little work for me this week (yippee!!) so more time for playing. The weather turned a little chilly here but the sun still shone so we still made our way outside as often as possible. For a long time now I have struggled with letting my girls play in the mud and get dirty. It’s not that I don’t like this type of play, quite the opposite in fact. I love watching the girls go crazy in dirt but it’s the washing and the redressing that I dislike. Dressing the girls (especially my 2.5 yo) can be quite an arduous, long winded process and once it is done I certainly don’t wish to have to keep having that battle throughout the day. So, whilst,  I would normally dress them in very old, already stained clothing etc for playing outside, what about when they have to go out; to a play date or the shops etc? I don’t really feel happy taking them out covered in dirt and mud. So if I know we are going out, the girls are dressed in clothes that are appropriate and it’s then that I loathe to open that backdoor and let them loose into the dirt pit before we go. But now, thanks to a brilliant invention, I no longer need to worry about this!!

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These little treasures arrived here in the post this week and they have completely solved my dirt issues once and for all – Muddlarks. If you haven’t heard of them, I would strongly encourage you to check them out. They are amazing! Simply pull them on the kids as they head outside (straight over whatever they are wearing) and take comfort in the fact that they not only repel water but also dirt!! I literally hosed the kids off when they were ready to come in and then hung them up at the back door. No washing required. In fact, they advise you to wash infrequently to prolong the life of the garment. I wish I had these a year ago. I have no doubt these will be well and truly the most frequently donned apparel my children have. A few of the pictures this week feature our Muddlarks in action. I hope you enjoy 🙂

7 hard v soft

 

7 soft and hard

Lucy explored the properties of materials. Once she had delved through the different components of this invitation, I asked her which materials she found hard and which were soft. At first, she was a little unsure about the concept of these two properties.  She thought the tree blocks were hard but when she picked up the wool she told me it was hard too. I asked her if she thought it was as hard as the blocks to which she replied ‘No mummy, the wool doesn’t make any sound, see!’ *bangs a bunch on the table* She then proceeded to pick up each object and bang it on the table to see what type of sound it made (by this stage she had removed most of the foil from around the blocks and so included it in her investigations). She concluded that the louder the sound, the harder the object. It was lovely to see her thought cogs turning from one simple prompt.

PS: she got much delight in removing the foil from the blocks to discover what was inside. I think she thought it was her birthday with so many presents to open 🙂

7 hammer invitation

With a somewhat destructive nature, I thought this invitation would be perfect for Lucy and I was right. After initially exploring the golf tees, she set right into hammering each and every tee into the floral foam before removing most of them and repeating. It was a great fine motor skill activity.

7 invite to scatter

7 pennys loose parts

Lucy absolutely loves loose parts! To her, these are her ticket to make mess, to run her hands through them slowly at first, gradually picking up pace and to tip and scatter them into far reaching corners of the room. In the past, we have butted heads over her innate approach she has to playing with these little bits and pieces and I have since shied away from using them in her everyday play. Whilst I had thought it would be a lovely opportunity for her to create in a serene way, she always had other ideas for them that never had anything to do with creating (unless you count creating a mess!). But in the recent months I have begun to embrace this quality in her and started to trust that the learning experiences she is gaining from her approach to play in this way is significant to her, for her age and stage. So, this week I set up this invitation to scatter using many different loose parts. I was surprised by the care that Lucy displayed when she initially approached the activity. Furthermore, although she did tip the contents out after about 5 minutes, they all went pretty much into the mirrored tray where she then studied them, stirred them and ran her hands through them for an extended period of time. She eventually added saucepans and pots to create some ‘dinners’ and over the days I left it out for her and Penny to come back to, she has been remarkably restrained and much more purposeful in her play with them. They are still accessible in the play room for both girls and are being regularly revisited throughout the day.

7 Penny playdough

In her new Muddlarks (had to try them on when they first arrived), Penny enjoyed playing with playdough this week. She especially loved poking things into the dough once it was rolled flat. On a side note, I made some beautiful play dough today using the lovely red dirt from the backyard. I will include it in next week’s post 🙂

7 soapy sensory

Muddlarks in action. This lovely sensory play was well received by both girls. These frothy bubbles were easily made by mixing 4 tbs of dish detergent with 1/2 a cup of water and food dye and then blending for a few minutes with a hand blender until soft peaks formed. Add a few pots and pans, cups and spoons and you have a lovely medium to explore and cook up a storm. After most of the bubbles had been emptied into their pots, the girls added bark and dirt to the container and created a big mud pie. They were muddy top to toe but loved being hosed off before they came inside.

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So, I leave you all with this photo of little Penny playing in the dirt pit. Now that the girls are dressed for it, I am going to add a little water to it next week and let them loose. Stay tuned… I look forward to hearing about your week of play. Enjoy your weekend 🙂

Increasing Attention Span in Toddlers Through Purposeful Play

As you know, I love to create little activities that invite my girls to discover, investigate and explore in their own way and in their own time. I have learned not to have an ‘agenda‘ with these invitations, knowing that my children’s minds, unlike mine, are blank slates with no preconceived ideas or expectations and consequently they engage in activities far differently than I would even dare to imagine.

My imagination and creativity has been reduced as I have grown up through life but theirs is still blossoming and developing and I love to see where it takes them through these invitations.  The girls have always approached these activities with excitement and I have never had one overlooked or rejected.

Now, this sounds wonderful and amazing etc but the reality is that the average time that it takes my children (especially my two year old, Lucy) to discover an investigation, form a hypothesis, test it and then reach her conclusions, is roughly five minutes. And whilst I appreciate that age is not in her favour when it comes to attention span, I have often wondered whether there is something more to her seemingly limited one.

I have read and reread articles and examples from Janet Lansbury, Lisa Sunbury Gerber and a whole host of mothers who follow Magda Gerber’s RIE approach claiming that their (even younger) children are capable of playing for much longer periods of time on just the one activity. And, as I think about it, I realise that even my youngest, Penny (nearly 18 months) has shown more ability to stay focused on a task for extended periods of time. So what makes my eldest child become disinterested quickly in activities that I take a great deal longer to set up than she does to play them?

Deep down I have known the answer to this for quite sometime. Through my wonderful association with Kate from An Everyday Story, I have learned that in order for some children to become invested in their play, it needs to be something that they are already curious about or have initiated completely on their own. When providing them with opportunities for play and investigation, taking this into consideration can be the difference between them engaging with the task for prolonged periods of time (even days or weeks) and investigating it at a surface level only, skimming over the top and never truly wanting to do more.

Now, it can be very hard to really know what your child is interested in, especially if they are pre-verbal or still a little young to have obvious obsessions or interests. But the clues are there if you look. It could be that they have articulated an interest through asking a question or making a comment or it could be communicated in other ways such as through pretend play, an obsession with a particular book or simply showing delight during an experience they have had organically (ie through the normal course of daily play, outings or activities).

I have realised that whilst I was (and still am) providing my children with many fun and enriching experiences I was failing to involve them in the production of these. It’s like someone continually offering books for me to read on a topic about which I have no interest. I would probably start the book to see what it was like but would most likely turn away from it before it was finished if it did not tap into my own interests. This is precisely what my eldest child seems to be doing with my wonderful activities.

So, having had this revelation, I started really listening to my children; engaging them in conversations, watching them in play, looking for any signs of a deep seated interest or a curiosity that could be tapped into further. It came one day recently when we were walking through a little forest at the end of our street.

We often head down there of an afternoon as the kangaroos are out for their dinner and many birds are flocking, returning to feed and roost. We were sitting on a little vine that had grown into a U shape, perfect for swinging lightly back and forwards, when a bush turkey suddenly ran across the track in front of us and then flapped clumsily on a low branch of a nearby tree. Both girls sat captivated as it flew from branch to branch looking for a high place to safely bunker down for the night. By the time it had settled it was so high up that we could only just spot it.

It sparked a noticeable curiosity in Lucy and certainly seemed to capture Penny’s attention. As we were walking home, Lucy spotted a large, black feather on the ground, we picked it up and surmised about which bird could have lost this feather. We spoke about which birds were black including crows, magpies and pee wees as well as the most likely culprit, the bush turkey.

Increasing Attention Span in Toddlers ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

The next day, we had a magpie visit our backyard (as we often do) and Lucy was very excited to see it and asked if she could ‘give him her lunch’. Over the next few days and weeks, I thought about how I could keep this interest in birds alive through way of a project. I came across Kate’s lovely and inspiring bird project and was instantly struck by how simple, yet engaging and purposeful her ideas were. They were appealing to her children and allowed them to explore birds on many levels, in a meaningful and deep way. And thus began, our first project.

Firstly, as we had not a single bird book in our house, it was off to our local library to pick up some lovely child friendly ones the girls would enjoy, including a guide to Australian birds. Lucy really enjoys books so this was a perfect medium for her to learn more about these fascinating creatures.

We flicked through the books and looked for birds that were familiar. I was surprised by how many birds Lucy knew already by name such as crows, magpies and kookaburras. On our outings, we began noticing birds all around us, we spoke about colours and sizes and worked out the names of the ones we were not sure of using the guide book and the internet.

Keen to see more birds in our fairly sparse backyard, I spoke to Lucy about what would make them come down and visit us. Living relatively close to a small forest we actually get many birds flying overhead in the afternoons but they never stop to visit. Lucy thought that by calling to them they might come down so we tried but to no avail. It seemed they were not listening. I asked her where she thought they might be flying and she thought maybe ‘the park’. We then worked out that after the park they would head home for a bath and some dinner (as is our regular afternoon routine). So I took the lead for an invitation from this and decided on making a bird feeder so the birds could have dinner with us.

Increasing Attention Span in Toddlers ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

As luck would have it, amidst all our bird studies, my husband and I had come across a lovely old stump in a big dirt pile in a development across the road. In An Everyday Story’s blog, her children had built a simple bird feeder to encourage more birds into their yard using a similar stump. I set up some tools and materials in an engaging yet simple way to ensure the girls were not only involved in the project but could take some ownership and responsibility for it. It was exciting for them as they thought about all the birds they might see coming for dinner.

Increasing Attention Span in Toddlers ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Lucy was responsible for building the feeder and then both the girls worked carefully scooping, pouring, carrying and filling the bird seed using cups and scoops.

Increasing Attention Span in Toddlers ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Increasing Attention Span in Toddlers ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Increasing Attention Span in Toddlers ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Increasing Attention Span in Toddlers ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

It took about a day before we saw our first bird visit the bird feeder and although it wasn’t a beautiful or exotic one the girls were so excited to see a peewee eating their seed. It must have felt so fulfilling for them to have been through the process and  then seen its purpose come to fruition. To help with our bird identification, I made small laminated cards for the girls (a set each) using only the birds I knew were in the area. These have been wonderful for the girls as they have watched a variety of birds come to feed and then used the cards to identify each one.

Increasing Attention Span in Toddlers ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

To further our study into the birds we collected more feathers on one of our walks and then did some painting using them as brushes. We also regularly use the little laminated cards in matching games which Lucy is becoming very adept at. She is now able to articulate the names of most of the birds that come into our yard including currawongs, peewees, house sparrows, blue fairy wrens (our favourites) and willy wagtails.

Increasing Attention Span in Toddlers ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Increasing Attention Span in Toddlers ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

The girls continue to feed the birds on a regular basis and have since added a bath for them to wash in. I am hoping that by planting a few more native shrubs this spring we might entice some more colourful birds in through the warmer months. It has been so wonderful to see my children learning in a meaningful way and although I will continue to offer them invitations to explore in a variety of mediums and contexts, I am now more open to using my children to steer the investigations based on the interests that they develop along the way.

Increasing Attention Span in Toddlers ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Our Weekly Play: Week 5

Lots of photos and not so much writing in this episode of our week in play. We were lucky enough to visit the Ipswich Art Gallery twice this week. There we discovered the Light and Play Exhibition as well as The Wonder of Learning: The Hundred Languages of Children exhibition which detailed the story of Loris Malaguzzi and how the aftermath of World War Two inspired his revolutionary approach to early childhood learning in the Northern Italian City of Reggio Emilia. Each of these exhibitions was so inspiring. I got so much out of the Reggio Emilia exhibit and am now keen to learn a lot more. The Light and Play exhibition drew both girls in immediately and invited them to interact, explore and discover reflections, shadow, projection, magnification and a whole host of other dimensions of light physics. If you live in or around Brisbane I would highly recommend taking your children to see this display. It ends in a couple of weeks and is well worth the trip. Here are a few of the highlights plus a couple of extra things we did during the week.

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This light panel was built into the floor so it could be walked over, crawled over and fully explored. It changed colour every few minutes making all of the objects on top change appearance.

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This simple activity was quite inspired. It was a line strung between two points with pegs scattered along and a couple of baskets full of random objects nearby, ready to peg up. Children could then use torches to shine at the objects and watch as the shadows were cast on the walls. I am going to try to set something like this up at home this week because Lucy was really fascinated with the torch and loved making the shadows.

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There were several raised tables with a selection of objects set aside in bins for the children to add and explore.

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Another light table with mirrors to add a new dimension.

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This table had a webcam that was hooked up to a projector which projected the image onto the wall. The children could explore how objects change in size when projected in this way, although Penny was happy to just stack the cups for about 30 minutes 🙂

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A little triangular house with Mirrors on each side kept Penny enthralled.

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And Lucy investigated with all senses!!

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Back home and we continued to explore the local birds using these laminated cards. Lucy did some matching and recognition with this activity. Throughout the week she was able to identify and name many of our backyard birds.

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Pouring remained a favourite activity for Lucy as she got more adept at pouring from a variety of different containers.

 

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This souvenir from the art gallery was a huge  hit. Lucy loved seeing shapes form in 3D and I am now thinking of some ways to incorporate this into an art invitation. Any ideas?

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Ever thought of bringing your outdoor furniture inside and setting up a playground wonderland in your lounge room? No, me neither! This invitation to play was set up for the children by my dear husband whilst I was at work. The children can’t get enough of it but I am looking forward to having my lounge room back 🙂

So another week has past and for us it was one very much dominated by our gallery visits. I am going to leave you with a beautiful poem written by Loris Malaguzzi who has inspired thousands of people world wide to take the time to listen to our children’s need to play, to create, to investigate and to imagine. It is up to us to foster these inherent qualities in our children so that their inquiring minds blossom rather than shrivel. I truly hope that I can rise to the challenge set by Loris!

The Hundred Languages

The child is made of one hundred. The child has a hundred languages a hundred hands a hundred thoughts a hundred ways of thinking of playing, of speaking.

A hundred.

Always a hundred ways of listening of marveling, of loving a hundred joys for singing and understanding a hundred worlds to discover a hundred worlds to invent a hundred worlds to dream.

The child has a hundred languages (and a hundred hundred hundred more) but they steal ninety-nine. The school and the culture separate the head from the body. They tell the child: to think without hands to do without head to listen and not to speak to understand without joy to love and to marvel only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child: to discover the world already there and of the hundred they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child: that work and play reality and fantasy science and imagination sky and earth reason and dream are things that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child that the hundred is not there. The child says: No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

 

 

 

Our weekly Play: Week 4

Play is such a wonderful thing. Play to a child is like work to an adult. It is serious, it is important and it is highly valued. As parents with ‘real’ jobs and ‘real’ responsibilities it can be easy to overlook just how significant play is to a child. While we go to sleep at night thinking about our busy day ahead, cooking, cleaning, getting to work, completing tasks, meeting deadlines, you can be sure that children have just as many thoughts: what am I going to build? Will I be able to master that skill? What am I going to do if somebody takes my toys? Where am I going to take my dolly for a walk in her pram? And the list goes on.

There is no shortage of research that supports the importance of play for children. It helps develop their learning, their creativity, their problem solving and their perseverance whilst at the same time providing them with a sense of accomplishment, joy and fun. I love watching my children play and noting the different angles at which they approach play objects and tasks. I can genuinely see learning taking place on a daily basis and I love that they are in charge of what they learn, when they learn it, and how they learn it. My second job (after being a mother) is a teacher and it has taken me some time to separate my role as a teacher from that as a mother but I have now become more accepting that my children at ages 1 and 2 years don’t need to be taught explicitly. They have an innate desire to seek out learning experiences and are learning the perfect amount for their individual age and stage. I simply try my best to offer experiences and opportunities for learning, through which I hope that they not only develop the aforementioned qualities  but also a love of learning and an inquiring mind.

Having said all that, here are a few snapshots of what the girls got up to this week. We had fewer ‘new’ invitations this week as the girls were happily revisiting ones from last week such as the dirt pit as well as creating their own play experiences 🙂

4 hedge maze

This fabulous arrangement of plants in a garden outside the church we take the girls to for music, provided them with so much fun and excitement that they happily played for ages; exploring, chasing each other and using problem solving to work out how to get back to each other when they ended up split between the rows.

4 sidewalk chalk

Who doesn’t love sidewalk chalks? It writes so easily, is vibrant and is so powdery and textural that children are drawn in by them. We love to play on our front footpath in the afternoon. The neighbours children often join us and the kids love meeting and greeting the neighbourhood walkers that stride past our house each afternoon. This week I brought out the sidewalk chalk for them to use to brighten up the footpath. Penny was so taken by them that she settled herself into a comfortable position on the footpath and proceded to draw, place the chalk sticks in and out of the tin, explore the powdery consistency by rubbing her drawings after she had drawn a line.

4 shared drawing

I came across this little table in a local op shop and immediately thought of the possibilities for the children and with its overly cheap price tag it didn’t take much to convince me to buy it. It was an instant hit and has been used regularly all week as a drawing table, a step to get up on the higher table, a platform to jump off and a table to eat from. I love seeing my daughters bonding, learning to share, cooperating and negotiating over this versatile table.

4 car washing

Despite being in the middle of winter here, we have been enjoying some unusually warm weather this week. Now, our car used to be my husband’s pride and joy but with the arrival of two children in quick succession not only has the car been relegated from the garage to the driveway to make way for a childrens play room, it has gone from having a weekly clean to a biannual clean!! This week it was bath time for the car and the kids had so much fun helping us do it that I think the poor old car might get some attention a little more often now. The girls love to be helpful and this gave them a fantastic outlet to play in water and bubbles whilst utilising a gross motor skill and feeling authentically useful. The only minor issue we encountered was that Lucy continually wanted to tip the water out to watch it run down the driveway. 🙂

4 Lucy pouring

This was one of the few invitations I set up this week. Not only was there limited time to set them up, I found that the girls seemed happy to find their own play ideas especially as the weather was so good and we could get outside. The girls really enjoyed this little pouring activity though. Lucy has just started asking to pour her own milk and drink from a cup without a sippy lid etc. so I wanted to tap into this interest and I thought this might help build her confidence in this area at the same time. She really enjoyed the funnels although it did take her a while to work out what they did. She would pour the water into it and then suddenly realise that it was coming out the bottom into nothing. We went through a few containers of water before she made the connection.

4 Penny pouring

I simplified the invitation for Penny and found that she was initially more interested in the cups themselves and placing them on and off the tray. She had a few attempts at pouring the water into the cup but kept tipping the empty cup up and leaving the full one down. Lots of spilling but I loved watching her brain tick over as she tried to work why it wasn’t working.

So that was a snippet of our week. I hope you had a lovely week with your children and as always I would love to hear from you or answer any questions you may have.

How RIE Helped Diagnose a Potentially Serious Condition in Our Baby.

How RIE Helped Diagnose a Potentially Serious Condition in our Baby ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident KidsI have always known how incredibly rewarding and useful Magda Gerber’s RIE parenting approach is for bringing up our children with the respect and peacefulness they deserve, but I never thought it would also help us to diagnose a potentially serious medical issue in our one year old daughter.

When Penny was only four weeks old she was hospitalised with an undiagnosed condition which presented as a facial paralysis on her left side. It was a stressful time for all of us and in the absence of a similar case to hers, we were left wondering whether this was a long term condition; one that would impact upon her development, her sensory function or her overall brain function. We were told that it was a matter of ‘wait and see’. As the months went by, she hit every milestone bang on cue and sometimes even earlier than the guidelines. Although a slight disfigurement of her face still remained, we became much less concerned about her growth and progress and quickly concluded that whatever it was that had impacted upon that area of her face, it had not affected anything else.

To confirm this, she underwent an MRI at eight months of age, along with a hearing and vision test. Everything came back clear and normal and with much relief we went back to enjoying watching our baby blossom into a sweet, curious toddler who loved to interact but also loved to be left in her own solitude; happy to explore and experiment with just a couple of items she was provided with.

It was around the time of her MRI that I discovered Janet Lansbury’s blog which followed the philosophies of RIE parenting. I have previously posted on how much this change in our parenting practises revolutionised our household and we were (and still are) so grateful to have been guided towards this approach. In my past year or so of reading I have noted that many RIE followers have confessed feelings of guilt for not finding it sooner. This was certainly true for us and we sometimes worried that it was too late for our oldest daughter who was about 18 months at that stage. In her infancy, it was common for us to use distractions on the change table when changing her nappy, at the dinner table when feeding her or after her bath when she needed to be dressed. We thought this was the best way to ensure these events went smoothly and Lucy quickly learned that she didn’t need to be involved with these processes, she demanded distractions and took no interest in wanting to help put her legs in the holes or lift her bottom when needed etc.

Penny, on the other hand, never really got to the stage of needing distractions before we discovered RIE. So when she started becoming a little restless on the change table we knew that distractions were not the answer (Read my previous post: Changing the Change Table Relationship). We had been talking her through the processes of dressing and changing for a little while and the only thing we really changed to help at this stage was how much we let her do for herself. For example, I would say to her ‘Penny, we need to put your legs in these holes’ and then I would wait for her to respond. She would then lift her legs one at a time and point her toes towards the holes of the pants whilst I gently pulled them on. Knowing she could now understand simple instructions, I used a similar ‘ask and wait’ strategy on just about everything I needed Penny to do. There was rarely a time that my then 10.5 month old wouldn’t respond positively or show understanding of what was being asked.

Then, not long after her first birthday, Penny started showing signs of rebellion. It coincided with the onset of a very heavy cold. She would ignore me when I asked her to lift her bottom at the nappy change or put her leg in the hole whilst getting dressed and instead squirm to roll over and sit up. When I would ask her to come to me when she was walking off, she would ignore me and keep walking and then crack it when I physically intervened. Initially I thought it was general irritability from being sick but when it continued I concluded that she had entered a new stage of development. This type of defiance was what I was used to from my two year old, so I thought it was just a stage Penny was going through and that as her cognition was developing, her need to test boundaries was also increasing.

Wanting to stay calm in my parenting and resist the use of distractions, I started being even more involving in the process of changing and dressing her. On one particular day, she was ignoring my verbal requests to put her legs in her pants, so I picked up the pants and held them in front of her as she squirmed on the table, she immediately stopped and stuck her leg out. I was a little perplexed but proceded to dress her without a fight, each time holding up the article of clothing to her so she could see it before telling her what I needed her to do. For the next few days, I tried to use the same techinique but sometimes reverted back to simply using verbal cues when asking her to put on her pants etc. After a while, I realised that she never responded to me when I only spoke to her and would always protest when I would try to dress her in this way, but was cooperative and obliging when I combined visual with verbal cues.

As the days went on, some cogs started turning in my head and following a conversation with a friend it suddenly dawned on me that the reason she was so objectionable when I used words only was that she couldn’t hear me! I suddenly had that sinking feeling; the one that feels like you are free falling. The more I spoke about it the more obvious it became to me that her hearing was impaired. She hated having books read to her when sitting on my lap facing away from me. She startled when approached from behind and ignored warnings not to touch certain objects, tantruming when I had to physically restrain her from doing so. All things that were not previously displayed by Penny. I had no doubt in my mind that Penny could not hear. I started to think that maybe her earlier condition had caught up with her and had indeed affected her inner ear in some way.

I organised an appointment with a specialist who confirmed that she had some impairment of the movement of her eardrums in both ears. She now has a follow up test in a month’s time to confirm that there is an ongoing issue but he has reassured us that the signs she is displaying is more closely linked to blockages in the ear canal due to fluid build up rather than a central processing issue. Frequent ear infections is a common cause (of which she does suffer) and if it doesn’t clear itself, grommits can be inserted to drain the fluid and open the canals. Often, babies with these hearing issues are not detected until they set off warning beacons on the speech and language development radar, by which time they have already missed out on a lot of vital foundation work in this area.

I am so grateful that the communication I have with my daughter is real and is two-way. She listens to me and I listen to her in return. I do not ‘do things to her’, she works with me to get the jobs done and now, in hindsight, I can see how easy it really was to pick up this medical condition and follow up quickly with the correct treatment. Had I not been doing this, had the communication been one-sided, it may have been many more months or even a year or more before I realised that she could not hear. Knowing how important these years are for developing speech and language skills, I am extremely appreciative that we have got onto this quickly thanks to the help of a beautiful style of parenting. I am fully aware that we could still be in for some stressful times ahead, pending the outcome of her upcoming tests, but I am confident that Penny has been given the absolute greatest chance of experiencing minimal impact on her development throughout this thanks to RIE.

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Could Young Children be Better Served by Not Teaching Them?

Could Children be Better Served by Not teaching Them ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident KidsHaving been a teacher for 12 years, I had always thought I would have a distinct advantage over other parents who had not trained in this area in giving my children a leg up in their education. After all, I knew all the little tricks for learning, I knew what needed to be learned (or I thought I did) and I knew how hard it could be for a child who was behind in their work and could never seem to get on top of things. I was determined that my children would begin their schooling half-educated and ready to hit the ground running, not having to struggle through.

So after the birth of my first daughter, even though I had switched to mother mode and was to take a year’s leave from teaching, I just couldn’t quite separate my role as a teacher from that of a mother. I religiously read to my baby, showed her flashcards naming all the objects, got little foam letters for the bathtub to spell out her name, went through all the shape names as we poked them through the shape sorter and on it went. I even went so far as to order the ‘Your Baby Can Read’ program and for a little while, plonked my baby in front of it as if it would somehow miraculously teach her to read. Oh dear, how wrong I was!

I have since learned that teaching is not in the role description of a parent – at least, not explicitly. I am not employed by my babies to teach them the alphabet, maths, or even how to walk, talk or eat their food. My role is as a guide only. I am here to provide them with an environment which provides them with safety and security as well as the experiences for them to learn for themselves.

My children are best served by me sitting back and observing. Showing them how to do things instead of trusting them to work it out for themselves, insisting they point out the red sheep in the book we are reading together, involving myself in their play by showing them how tall I can build a tower of blocks or interfering in their daily struggles and challenges not only pressures them to do more and know more than they already happily do but also robs them of the opportunity to develop even more important life skills such as perseverance, hypothesising, resilience, forming conclusions, risk taking, cause and effect and the list goes on.

Like Magda Gerber once said:

“Be careful what you teach, it might interfere with what they are learning.”

A child who is not taught, gains the opportunity to experience the self-pride and confidence which comes when an achievement is made all by themselves. This can only serve to foster a lifelong love of learning which is paramount in arming our children for the lifetime of formal learning they will gain at school or in the workforce.

There is one thing we can be sure of with our children and that is that they are all born with an innate desire to learn. If I don’t show my children how to walk, will they never take those first steps in their lifetime? If I never teach my child the alphabet, does that mean they will never learn it? The thing is, a child’s desire to learn is far stronger than our need to teach and when the time is right for them, our children will seek out the knowledge they wish to continue to grow and develop at their own pace.

I have also discovered that there is nothing more joyful than watching your child persevere through frustrations, only to eventually triumph and complete the task they had set out to do. Jean Piaget wisely pointed out:

“When you teach a child something, you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself.”

And when you see the smile light up on your little one’s face when they make the discovery or accomplish a task you will soon realise the importance of Piaget’s message. It is especially affirming when they immediately re-enact a struggle they just made it through as if to reassure themselves that they can do it and will continue to be able to do it when they need to in the future.

I now know that being present whilst my, now two, children are at play is all I need to do to ensure they learn all the vital skills they’ll need to be well-equipped for their lifetime of learning. In doing this, I also realise that they’ll actually learn far more than if I had continued to try to teach them everything at every opportunity.

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When my daughter climbed into this boat structure at the local playground earlier this week, I sat with her for nearly 20 minutes whilst she struggled to work out how to get back out. She tried going backwards and forwards on her tummy and then tried standing and holding on whist stepping down. Each time she would cry out in frustration and look to me for help. I was solid in my resolve and simply sat right near her and calmly acknowledged her frustrations and let her know that I would help her if she really needed me to. Each time I spoke this to her, she would look away from me and have another attempt. Although she was whinging, it was clear she didn’t want me to interfere. Eventually she got down by wriggling backwards feet first. It was then time to leave the park. I was back there today and you can guess where she made a beeline for when we arrived. Yep, the boat. She climbed straight up and then came straight back down, head first this time, within about 10 seconds. She then repeated this several times, alternating between going head first and feet first. Not a whinge to be heard but plenty of beaming smiles 🙂