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OPINION: The Positive Parenting in Baby Led Weaning

OPINION: The Positive Parenting in Baby Led Weaning

This is a new series of Opinion entries which will be different from the research based articles I usually post.

When my son turned 6 months like all parent we began looking into how to introduce solid foods to him. Like most people I knew about starting with fruit and vegetable purees and had already bought a couple ( OK maybe more than a couple) baby cookbooks with all these puree combinations and meal plans. We were ready to start!

Then I came across Baby Lead Weaning (BLW). I had come across the (misleading) title before and ignored it because we had no plans to wean our baby any time soon. On further inspection it has nothing to do with weaning per say and everything to do with introducing solids in a very interesting way.

BLW  (a term attributed to Gill Rapley ) is basically about allowing your child to self feed and skipping purees altogether and going for appropriate finger food. You can read all the details and guidelines about BLW here on their official website.

Going through the process with my own son it made me realize how much BLW supports the philosophies we try to follow in Positive Parenting:

  • Choosing an age appropriate activity for your child:
    One of the first guidelines of BLW is waiting till your child shows signs of readiness. Is he sitting up independently? is he reaching for objects and interested in putting them in his mouth?
  • Supporting your child’s development:
    Children at that age naturally place things in their mouths. Self feeding is a natural extension to this instinct as well as exercise fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination.
  • Helping your child develop positive eating habits: 
    Feeding himself allows your child to regulate how much food he eats when he’s hungry and stop when he’s full on his own. He also gets to practice his independence by choosing what to eat and what not to eat. There is no “last spoon” to finish off, just his own self monitoring.
  • Avoiding feeding power struggles:
    Mealtimes can turn into real struggles as parents negotiate with their kids to finish their food, eat one more bite or threaten no dessert. Practicing BLW helps you learn to trust your child and his food intake. He may eat very little for breakfast but have a good dinner or he may have a lousy day eating but eat double his portions the next day. An article I read once on baby and toddler eating had very good advice; it said it’s always best to look at how much your child is eating within the week. That is a fairer estimate than judging day-to-day eating.
  • Avoiding raising a picky eater:
    Children are people like the rest of us, they like and dislike different things, and sometimes they change their minds! By placing diverse and healthy choices in front of your child you are teaching them how to value food and decide for themselves what they want to eat. Don’t be discouraged! Reintroduce rejected foods over and over again, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when your child starts eating them!
  • Eating together as a family and creating a positive habit:
    Often times I see families experience this scenario; parents eat separately then baby is fed alone either before or after parents. Sometimes it can last an hour feeding the child and it can feel like a chore! Other times parents let their children roam feed. But at a certain point and age you are going to start requesting that your child “grow up” and sit at the table and eat “properly”. So why wait to introduce this? Babies and toddlers learn instinctively through imitation. When you model eating and proper dinner behavior they’ll pick up on it and be encouraged. That’s not to say they won’t fling food or throw their spoons. These are all natural behaviors that children do as they explore the world and their limits.

Finally, I have to say starting off with BLW sometimes isn’t always easy. On our first day of feeding I found myself wanting my son to have more of the spoon instead of just a taste as he’s supposed to. Parents are told that suddenly children should be consuming several spoonfuls of food 1-3 times a day and that can put a lot of pressure. I believe the biggest issue to overcome is the parent’s own emotional one of letting go and trusting your child and the process. That being said, sometimes BLW doesn’t match your child or your family’s needs and may not be for you. Sometimes a blend of spoon feeding and BLW is what works. I spoon feed my child when he gets lazy or is tired as well. These are all natural. The important point at the essence of positive parenting is to keep a flexible mind about things; some days baby will eat well and others not, sometimes he’ll self feed and others need help, he may love carrots today but hate them tomorrow for no apparent reason. In all cases there is no need to feel pressured or stressed, ask yourself these questions:

  1. At the end of the week; did my child eat well?
  2. Did he have a diverse selection of healthy choices?
  3. Was mealtime a pleasant and stress-free experience for everyone?
  4. What can be changed for next time?

It’s an ongoing process. Here area a list of references I’ve found useful on young children and eating.

4 Tips to an Enjoyable Day Out with your Toddler

4 Tips to an Enjoyable Day Out with your Toddler

Do you feel like you’re going out less since you had the baby? Going to out to dinner or shopping with your toddler can often feel more like a battle than a relaxing night out. The good news is that with a bit of planning and compromise you can still enjoy nice outings and dinners WITH your toddler!

First of all let’s try to put ourselves into your toddler’s shoes… “How exciting is it to go to a fancy restaurant where everything is sparkling and shinny but I’m not allowed to touch any of it! I have to sit still all the time, I can’t use my hands to eat and it sounds like it’s a big deal if I spill my drink. I don’t know why we came here in the first place, no one told me where we were going and this place doesn’t even have a swing!”

 

From your little one’s point of view this isn’t such a great experience either which can cause him to become restless and start acting out. Here’s what you can do to make outings a more pleasant experience for everyone.

Pick a suitable location

Try to find a place that is family friendly that has a children’s menu or high chairs for your baby. Check to see if they have a play area for kids. If you’re looking for a quieter setting without a lot of kids running around check to see if place has an outdoor area or space where you can walk around with your toddler in between courses to make sure he gets his energy out. This will make it easier for him to sit at the table when food is served. You can also bring along a story or crayons to keep your child entertained while at the table.

Let your child know in advance

Prepare your child for what to expect by telling him where you’re going, what you’ll be doing there, what behavior is expected of him and everyone else (no banging on the table or running around) and what he can look forward to as well. Make sure your sentences are positively phrased; “We should use our forks properly instead of banging with them”.  Let your child know that there’s something in this for him as well. He can bring a book, crayons and coloring book or his headphones to listen to music. Let him know if there’s a playground or outdoor space you’ll visit together before dessert. Remember to make sure you stick to your promise and follow through.

Compromise and respect your child’s needs

If none of the family friendly facilities are available then try to create your own! You might think of skipping dessert and walking to the ice-cream store next door for a treat and to get your toddler moving. Take your toddler for a brief walk to see the fish tank if you’re in a seafood restaurant or other interesting things while you wait for your order.

Don’t spend the evening prodding your toddler to finish his food or eat his veggies. Make it a treat and order something special for him off the menu. If there’s no kid’s menu ask your waiter if they can make a mini pizza for your child. Pasta is always a hit with kids! If you’re out shopping and don’t know where you’ll end up for lunch then pack an appropriate snack for your child that you can take with you on your outing. Similarly let your child know that after shopping is done that you’ll be going to a place just for him. A few places you can go to are the playground, toy store, children’s bookstore for story time, pottery painting café or even just sitting in a space where your child can run around with other kids.

Accept that tantrums may still happen

Remember that even if you go through all the planning and your child still ends up throwing a tantrum and throwing his spoon on the floor that it’s OK! Children are people too and can’t be molded to neatly fit a plan every time. They have needs and wants that might be different than their parents’. Don’t let this discourage you and make sure you respond to your toddler with love and patience when a tantrum happens. Remember to ask him what happened and how he felt after he calms down. This can help prevent the same problem from reoccurring.

I hope these tips help make your outings a more pleasant experience for everyone!

Image courtesy of Stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Learning through Play with Toddlers

Learning through Play with Toddlers

By the age of one your child is developing a lot of new skills. He’s starting to say his first words and by the age of two will be forming short sentences. He’s taking his first steps and is more mobile. He can now reach for things on his own, jump and run. Naturally these changes also reflect on your child’s play and interests.

Children at this age start using their play to make sense of their world and how things work. They’re on the first step to imaginative play and enjoy playing with real life objects like pots & pans, brooms, gardening tools etc.   He’s also beginning to be good at things and with repetition your child eventually masters that skill and moves on to making it more complex.  Toddlers start developing new cognitive concepts at this stage; they start differentiating sizes and noticing if objects are the same or different.

Make sure your child has a variety of toys and experiences. You don’t have to use fancy toys or many toys either.

  • Give your child a safe environment so he can explore and practice his new skills freely. If you see your child doing something incorrectly, don’t be quick to interfere and show him the “right” way. Give him a chance to figure out how to do things or develop his own technique. The thinking process is just as important as the end result. At the same time make sure you are near in case your child asks for assistance.
  • Blocks: are a great way to build simple math and counting skills. Children also develop their fine and gross motor skills and eye-hand coordination as they make their towers taller. They are also using their imagination to make a house, a zoo or table with the blocks.
  • Buckets and boxes: children at this age love filling containers and dumping them.  Make sure there is a designated space where this is acceptable. It’s fun for kids and helps build their motor skills.
  • Colors and paints: you can make your own homemade paint with water/flour/food coloring so it’s baby-safe. Give your child different textures like cotton balls, glitter, tissue paper and pieces of cloth. Place a big paper for your young child on the floor or place it against the wall. Give him thick and thin brushes, rollers or sponges and watch him explore the textures and create their own art. It’s OK if it turns into an all-black painting in the end. Remember it’s all about the process! Your child is expressing himself which adds to his self-confidence and self-awareness. He’s exploring different textures and as a result learning about their similarities, differences and attributes. Some may be easier to stick than others for example or watching how red and yellow make orange! He’s also developing his motor and language skills as you ask him which color he wants, point to and label the different colors and materials. If you don’t want to make a mess indoors try doing it outside in your balcony or garden or place a bigger plastic tablecloth under our child indoors.
  • Pretend play: provide your child with items that are similar to real life like hats, scarves, old clothes. He might enjoy dressing the dolls in some of his own old cloths not doll cloths. More ideas are wands, cowboy boots, fisherman’s hat or doctor’s kit. These help your child learn about the world by repeating real life situations in play and imagining different scenarios and outcomes.
  • Books: are always useful in multiple ways! You can read with your child or let her read on her own. Toddlers are old enough to learn how to hold a book the right side up and put them back when they’re done. Your child can use stories (with your help) to make sense of new situations like having a new baby or going to preschool. It’s also a great way to look again and again and again at items that aren’t in our direct environment like animals, forests, or the sea.

A word about playing with others and sharing

Around 14 months children start playing side by side this is called parallel play. Although they may seem like they are playing together they are not. Their play may be influenced by each other and they may verbally or non-verbally swap items but they have not yet begun to play together. Real sharing and group play starts around the age of three. If your toddler isn’t sharing don’t be alarmed or embarrassed. You can try to give him another toy for a few minutes and tell him his turn is next.  Make sure you give him his turn within a few minutes!

What about television?

The strong recommendation of renowned pediatric association and child experts is to give no TV time before the age of two because it takes away from real life experiences and in reality may delay children in cognitive and language skills. You can read more about TV here.

How much play is enough?

Children play almost all the time and in general besides sleep probably only stay inactive for about an hour a day. The American National Association for Sports and Physical Education (NASPE) recommends at least 30 minutes of “structured” physical play which means it’s initiated and let by an adult such as when you dance or try an obstacle course with your child. And at least 60 minutes of free play where your child gets to do whatever he chooses on his own. It’s important to try to maintain a balance of dictating your child’s play and letting your child take the lead. You might still get to be the princess or prince in his imaginative play.


 

References:

Zerotothree.org

Zero to Three: Power of Learning through Play

Zero to Three: Development of Play Skills

Kids Health: Toddler Play

Raising Children Australia: Toddler’s Play

 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici 

Staying in Touch with your Child while you’re Away

Staying in Touch with your Child while you’re Away

We usually think about a traditional family as mom and dad coming home to their kids at the end of the day. But what if one parent has to travel a lot for work and is away for days, weeks or even months at a time? How can you stay connected to your child during this time. I’ve put together a list of ideas that will hopefully keep you connected with your family till you’re back safely at home.

 

  • Make a Scrapbook: you and your child can each make a scrapbook while you are away. When you’re back you can swap scrapbooks and get to tell each other about every event that happened.

  • Record yourself: It can be great fun for young children to have a video recording of mommy or daddy reading a few stories. Your child can easily ask for the video recording and get to hear a story from you while you’re away/

  • Stay available: while you may be miles away, your child will still need the “live” version of you! Make sure you schedule time for a video call online so your child can tell you about his day. Video chats are now so stable and easy to use you can even share a meal or watch a movie together online! If you have an older child you can even be available for homework help.

  • Buy a book: Get your child a book about where you’ll be travelling. There are many children’s books that involve travel and new places. If you can’t find a book then you can use the internet to show your child where you’ll be going.

  • Send a gift: If you are a parent who travels for months away from your family it might be a nice idea to send your child a spontaneous gift with a little note telling him you’ve been thinking of him. Gifts don’t have to be expensive or frequent, just something small that tells your child you thought of him when you saw it.

  • Be predictable: let your child know in advance when you’ll be travelling. Mark the days on the calendar to countdown. This helps prepare your child for your travel date. Your child can also mark your return date on the calendar and mark the days till you arrive. For younger children having a visual option makes it easier for them to understand. Your child can mark each day on his own when he goes to bed.

  • Be honest with your child: If you can’t be available to video chat or call  then let your child know in advance and  explain the reasons.Children respond better to clarity  and honesty than vagueness.

  • Send a postcard: Yes! be old fashioned and send an old fashioned postcards from where you’re from. If you travel a lot your child will start collecting postcards from your travels. Some post-offices in Europe even offer the possibility of making a postcard out of a picture and sending it all via your phone!

  • Involve your spouse:  your spouse back home can be active too! He/she can help your child make their own video to send to you or maybe send a picture of his latest drawing.

  • Make the time: whether you choose email, postcards, video chat or a phone call the important thing is to make the time and be available for your child! With today’s technology there are so many ways to stay in touch. Taking a picture and sending it takes seconds! You can even video chat from your phone! So make sure you include time for your child in your travel plans as well.

    Have you tried these or other methods of staying in touch? Let me know your thoughts. 🙂

Developing Young Children’s Emotional Security

Developing Young Children’s Emotional Security

Developing young children’s emotional security is a process that starts at birth. Even before we think they can realize their surroundings or have an opinion, babies are already learning about what they can expect from the world from the experiences they have. Babies learn to feel either secure or insecure in the world based on the relationships they have with the people who care for them. Babies who know they have an adult they can rely on for comfort and care are more likely to be secure unlike those who experience inconsistent or unresponsive care.

Why is it important to care about a child’s emotional security? Children’s social emotional state is connected to other important aspects of their lives, such as their ability to explore and learn. It also involves their ability to make friends, play and face difficult situation later in life.

What you can do:

Children who experience a pattern of responsive and consistent care from their parents and caregivers are more likely to develop a positive sense of self, of others and the world around them. They are then more likely to have self-confidence, trust others and explore and learn new situations. On the other hand, children who experience unresponsive treatment from parents and caregivers are likely to have behavior problems, act out and have feelings of mistrust and low self-esteem.

Here are some ways to help your child develop a positive feeling of emotional security.

  • Be Responsive

Contrary to popular belief you can’t spoil a child by being responsive. It’s how you respond that makes a difference. Your baby is sending you signals and cues all the time. Take time to observe your baby and find out what she wants. Let your child know you see her cues for help and attention. Just by giving her attention that you know she needs something is a great first step. Next it’s important to respond appropriately to what she needs. Is she pointing to a toy to play with you? Is she hungry? Does she need to sleep? Does she need a hug?
Remember that no good comes from leaving a baby or young child “cry it out”. All young children have difficulty controlling their emotions your baby needs your help to calm down. Not responding to a cry sends a signal to your baby that she can’t count on the adults and caregivers around her. On the other hand when children feel understood and responded to they learn to develop trusting relationships and good self-esteem.

  • Support your child’s development

Almost everything young children experience is new for them. That’s important to keep in mind when your little one is struggling to put on his jacket or spills while pouring his juice. These and many more are skills your little one needs to learn and learning never happens without mistakes. What’s important is that these mistakes are met with encouragement, positivity and a solution. Not criticism and punishment.

  • Try to find a balance between giving your child independence and support. Your child needs to know you will be there when she needs help. Give him the space needed to explore new activities and places while letting him know you are there to support if things get too tough.
  • Try not to be over intrusive with your child’s initiatives. Avoid taking over your child’s activity and being over involved. This will just push your child away from exploring new things.
  •  Letting your child do things on his own and learn through trial an error can help him feel more independent, self-reliant and confident in approaching new or tough situations.
  • Communicate with your child

Communication is extremely important even with young children who can’t form full sentences of their own yet. While your child might not be able to fully express himself verbally, he can understand you very well. Let your child know what to expect to increase his feeling of security by communicating with your child and explaining things. Tell him why you will leave him at daycare? Mommy has to go to work. Where will you go? Mommy will go to work. When will you return? I’ll pick you up after snack time.  Make sure to put your words in terms your child can understand and to  stick to what you say! With repetition your child will develop a sense of trust and confidence.

  • Mistakes are opportunities to learn

Remember that your child is experiencing things for the first time and has not yet mastered basic skills. How you respond is important to how your child views himself and his abilities. Mastering a skill can only come by practice. Give your child opportunities to do things on his own and be positive when correcting your child’s misbehavior or when offering your child help. This helps give your child a sense of confidence, positive self-esteem and encourages him to try again.  The same applies when resolving conflict. Give your child a chance to explain, propose a solution and try it out. If it doesn’t work out then discuss why he thinks things went wrong and what he could do instead. It can be quite surprising the smart answers 3 and 4-year-old come up with once given a chance.

These are just a few ideas to help your child feel confident and emotionally secure. I hope they help you out in making your parenting experience as happy as can be.

Image from onemorephoto/flickr

Raising Toddler Twins

Raising Toddler Twins

Having kids is a wonderful experience. It can also be quite exhaustive, especially if you are dealing with twins! Twins usually require much more attention and energy than regular siblings. This is normal since you’re dealing with two children of the same age at the same time. That can be a handful sometimes!  When you have toddler twins it’s normal that you have a lot to take care of. Everything is doubled. Parents are often concerned about how to treat their twins, should they treat them differently, equally, dress them the same or different?

How are twins different than singletons?
As toddlers there’s a lot going on with children’s development. They start developing words and sentences. Start playing with other children and by the end of toddlerhood will be starting preschool. Twins tend to develop slightly different than regular siblings. They may be delayed in their language skills. This can be more prevalent in identical twins than fraternal twins. However, this difference disappears by the time children are 5 years old once they start preschool and kindergarten. Although the explicit reasons as to why this happens haven’t been identified, there is speculation that this may be due to the amount of verbal interaction they get with their parents. Research has shown that mother’s verbal interaction with each twin plays an important role in their language development.

There is usually a more dominant twin from the pair who tends to be the one more advanced socially and verbally. Twins also tend to play together more than other siblings. As a result, they may have less social interaction with other children or adults. This may also account for delayed language acquisition. Toddler twins are even known to develop their own “secret language” among themselves made up of simplified sounds and words. This behavior is quite normal for twins. These language distortions disappear as twins begin to spend more time with other children and grownups as they would in preschool. Toddler twins may also have more conduct problems than singletons which could be caused by a need for attention or frustration caused by their language delay.

What you can do:

  • Try to give individual attention to each child. Research has shown that parents tend to have less one-on-one interaction and less verbal exchanges with each individual twin than other siblings. Make sure to spend enough time with each child to help foster his/her language and social skills. What is important is how much speech interaction each twin receives individually.
  • Remember that each twin is a unique person. While they may have a lot in common, any parent who has twins will tell you how different their personality and interests are. Whether you want them to be alike or different this will predominantly decided by the twins themselves. Make sure you respect their individual differences as well as their similarities.
  • Offer enough social interaction with other children. While twins do tend to play together more than with other children don’t panic on forcing them to interact with other children. Studies have shown that the close relationship twins share does not interfere with their relationships with other children at school. Twins have even been reported to be less selfish and friendlier at school. Make sure you provide your twins with the normal range of social experiences for their age.
  • Spousal and family support. It can be difficult to divide your attention between two children of the same age at the same time. Try to provide each twin with some undivided exclusive attention with each parent or with close family members like a grandparent. Remember that mothers and fathers play important and unique roles in their child’s development. Fathers’ play time is just as important as mothers’ care and attention.

                                                   

Separate or Same Classroom?

 

The daunting question as children start to enter preschool. Should we keep them in the same classroom because they are so close? Or should we separate them so they can be independent? Unfortunately the answer is not clear cut. What we do know is that placing twins in different classes is associated with better form of speech and stopping stuttering. However, like all children each pair of twins are different and within each pair each twin is a unique child. With that in mind, whether to separate or place in the same classroom should be handled on a case-by-case basis depending on the children’s needs and personalities.

Reference
Lytton, H. & Gallagher, L. (2002). Parenting twins and the genetics of parenting. Handbook of Parenting: Children and Parenting. M. H. Bornstein (Eds). London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

This article as features in Arabic on Supermama

Photo from  Michaela Spodniakova