Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Introducing a new baby

I have a friend who is expecting baby number two and she has been asking about some of things we did to prepare our son for the arrival of our new baby. I thought it would make a good post, some ideas on how to introduce both the idea and the physical new baby to your child.

Let's start with the pregnancy. It's very much a personal decision as to when you decide to bring up the topic of a baby in mummy's tummy to your child and is probably somewhat dependent on the age of your child too. As time is not a concept young toddlers have much of a grasp of, we didn't want to tell our son too early. In fact, we were somewhat forced into telling him a little earlier than we might otherwise have done, due to too many adults asking him about what was in mummy's tummy!

Books are always a helpful and enjoyable way to explain situations to children, whether it's toilet training, starting school or in this case, a new baby joining the family. We had a couple bought for us and both were enjoyed by our son: I'm a Big Brother and the similarly named I'm a New Big Brother. They were good in explaining very basically some of the things to expect with a newborn, like crying, the eating / sleeping / pooping routine and also little ways in which an older sibling could help or engage with the baby. Our son's favourite line in one of these was on a page about helping feed the baby food and it says, 'I try not to get peas on his face'! They are also good about highlighting some of the fun things an older sibling gets to do that a baby can't - like going to bed later and being able to eat pizza and ice-cream, as a way to reinforce the fun in being a 'big boy or girl'.

As a parent, we can do our best to talk about what it may be like when the new baby arrives to help prepare the older child but I think it's important not to overdo it. It's good to focus on the time you have together before the baby's arrival, maybe do some special outings or activities together to make your older child feel really loved and secure.

I was lucky to have a couple of close friends who had had their second babies towards the end of my pregnancy and it was immensely handy to spend time with them so my son got to experience being around a newborn before ours arrived on the scene. He got to see how tiny a baby is, to hear their crying, see them being fed, nappies changed etc. I think that was a real benefit for my son to get a glimpse of what it might be like when his baby sister was born.

Finally, a few words on the physical introduction to the baby. Even though it was eight months ago now, I can still picture the moment my son came into the room of the birth centre to visit me and see his new sister for the first time. I had heard that it was best not to be holding the baby when the sibling first sees them so I made sure to have arms free for a big welcoming hug for my son. A midwife had told me he was there (I think I was eating rather than holding the baby!) and so I was ready for an enthusiastic greeting. I had missed him so much during those hours of the birth!

We involved our son in little ways like having him count the baby's toes. Another tip I had heard was to have a present from the baby so we had a present in our 'hospital bag' ready to give him too. That definitely went down well!

Those are my experiences and some things that worked for our family. Obviously the whole concept of a baby in mummy's tummy and having a new baby brother or sister is one that must be incredibly abstract and impossible to really explain to a young toddler. All you can do is try to make the introduction of both the idea and the baby itself one that is positive and inclusive for the older child.

For those of you with two or more children, what do you remember from introducing the new baby to your older child? Do you have any additional tips to share?
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Friday, 22 June 2012

This week: nap/no nap limbo

My son, who is three and a half is in a real nap / no nap limbo at the moment. When he started being less sleepy at bedtime and using every excuse in the book to delay the going to sleep process, we recognised it might be time for him to lose the daytime nap. It's been a gradual phasing out and a following of instincts. Some days and often at weekends he doesn't seem at all tired and we replace nap time with quiet time. On those days, he is definitely ready for bed and will get straight to sleep at a prompt bedtime.

Some days however, he is visibly tired, he complains about being tired and is happy to admit himself that he needs a nap. So he takes a nap on those days. When he naps, he rarely wakes in cheerful spirits (which I know from speaking to other mums is not uncommon for toddlers) and often, I will wake him to ensure he doesn't sleep too long and is still ready for bed when it comes to bedtime. Of course, no matter how careful and gentle I am in waking him, it's never a pretty sight!

I know with time, it will get easier and the naps will totally phase out as he gets used to coping with full days and weeks. In the meantime, there will be days when he does need to catch up after some energetic days without naps and a daytime sleep will be the best thing for him. For those days I will keep working on my techniques for a happy, cheery post-nap mood but if anyone has any tips, do please share in the comments!

Does your toddler still take naps? If not, do you remember the transition from nap to no nap and how it went?
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Monday, 18 June 2012

A great party bag alternative

Party bags, it might be fair to say, are fun for the children receiving them but less appealing to their parents. The contents tend to be plastic toys that don't last long and add to general toy clutter at home, and some sweet treats.

We've been to a couple of third birthday parties in recent weeks and instead of a party bag, my son was given a book to take home. What a great idea!

At one party each child was given a copy of the same book. It was a big hardback book, party themed with a story inside but also with fun recipes to make. At another party, there was a selection of story books on a table by the door for the child and parent to choose from as they left. In both cases, we came home with a nice new book that can be enjoyed together and that has more lasting value and appeal than most common party bag contents.

I have given little books in party bags before but really like this idea of giving one good book to each child who attends the birthday party. I agree, it may have less excitement for the toddler than, 'what's inside my party bag?!' but in the long term, where plastic toys from a party bag might get broken or mysteriously disappear ;-), the book is something that can be read and re-read and enjoyed for longer.

At another party my son was given a cute pot plant to take home instead of a party bag. This was a really nice idea too and the thought that the child can water and nurture their plant is a sweet one. However, maybe because I am not a green-fingered person, the plant idea is not one I would do personally.

What do you think about the book idea? Do you have any party bag thoughts to add or any other alternatives your child has received?
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Friday, 15 June 2012

This week: Martha Payne

My 'this week' post is not about me this week but about the British schoolgirl Martha Payne who was banned from posting any more pictures on her blog documenting and rating her school dinners.

For those of you who have not heard the story, Never Seconds is the blog set up by nine-year old Martha who lives and attends school in Argyll, Scotland. She had been photographing and rating her school dinners each day, as well as showing some dinners that readers from around the world had sent her. Due to a newspaper headline, her local council banned her from posting any more photos on her blog and so her impressive, creative idea is forced to come to an end.

She had attracted the attention of Jamie Oliver who himself, as many of us know, has been campaining for healthier school dinners for some time. He had sent her a copy of his Jamie's Great Britain cookbook, with the inscription, 'Dear Martha, great work!!! Clever girl. Lots of love. Jamie O. XXX Keep it up!!'.

One piece of good news out of this ridiculous response from Argyll and Bute Council  is that Martha had also been raising money for Mary's Meals, a charity that helps provide meals in places of learning in the poorest parts of the world. She had eventually hoped to raise £7,000, the amount needed for Mary's Meals to build a new kitchen for their work. Thanks to the media coverage of the council's silly decision, people have been donating to her charity page and she has already exceeded the target £7,000! At time of writing this post the current amount raised is an astonishing £18,499!!

Let's hope Martha continues her blog, maybe without the photos but still engaging readers as she has been doing so wonderfully to date.
Update: the ban on her photos has now been lifted! You can read more about it here

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

6 sandwich alternatives

My son loves sandwiches. He would list them amongst his favourite meals. I make him a sandwich for lunch most days Monday to Friday. He never has two of the same fillings in any given week but I'm aware that his lunch repertoire, whilst to his enjoyment, is lacking in variety.

A sandwich is quick to prepare, generally pretty healthy and can often be thrown together with even the barest of cupboards or fridges. Thinking beyond sandwiches, you're often talking about a bit of advance preparation so you can see why a sandwich is my default ;-).

However, in an attempt to take a break from the sandwiches more days than I do currently, I decided to put some thought into other options that are fairly quick, easy, healthy and delicious. Here are my 6 sandwich alternatives:

- savoury muffins: these can be a great way of incorporating some vegetables into something that is fun to eat and easy to bake. You could make them the night before or the morning of, depending on your schedule. Serve with some tomato wedges and cucumber/carrot/celery sticks. Here are a few ideas for muffin recipes - I like the sound of the carrot, spinach and cumin ones!

- substantial salad: a green-based salad doesn't fill me up and my son does not care for lettuce leaves so I like to make rice/quinoa/pasta salads which are yummy and filling. You could cook extra rice/quinoa/pasta the night before and then throw together a salad by adding some of the following: chopped tomato/cucumber, cheese cubed or grated, grated carrot, tinned sweetcorn, tinned beans, tinned puy lentils, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, seeds.....

- quiche: a little less healthy due to the fat in the pastry but still fine every now and then. Some fillings I like are simple cheese and onion, broccoli, asparagus, and mushroom. Depending on your baking skills and time, you could buy ready-made pastry rather than making your own. Make at a weekend or in an evening. Could be cut into portions and some frozen.

- eggs: omelette or scrambled eggs best lend themselves to vegetables being included (either cooked in with the eggs or on the side). This is a fairly quick option to cook on the spot before eating.

- dips:  beans or chickpeas can be whizzed up into a healthy dip by adding a bit of natural yoghurt and some seasoning (you  may also need a little oil or water to thin it down). Hummous is very easy to make at home and there are lots of tasty vegetable dips you could try too (baba ganoush springs to mind). Cut up some raw veggies to dip in. Breadsticks or pitta breads are good too.

- soup: not something I am cooking much at the moment due to it being summer but I love a warming bowl of soup for lunch in the winter especially. Healthy, hearty and easy to make even with minimal ingredients at home.

What do you typically make for you and your children at lunch time? Any other suggestions to add to my six?
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Friday, 8 June 2012

This week: a happy half-term

I shared a few thoughts on half-term last year at a time before my son had started nursery. Now he is at nusery and I experience half-term properly. I have to say, I don't really know what all the fuss is about from parents who dread half-term and having to entertain their children who are usually out of the way at school. Maybe the novelty will wear off in a year or two but as it is, I really enjoy having my son at home for a change.

We keep ourselves busy (although not crazy busy) and it's a chance to fit things in that we don't generally have the time for when he is at nursery. This week we have been to a museum, seen friends both at our home and out, we went to an art activity nearby one morning and today, the final day of the week has been quiet at home with a spontaneous living room dance party and doing some activities in a children's magazine we bought my son at the weekend. I should note, it's been a wet week weather-wise...

I enjoy the break from having to rush out of the house in the mornings and the to-ing and fro-ing of my daughter on the nursery runs. My son can now elicit laughter at almost any moment from my 7-month old daughter so simple happy moments like those are treasured during this week we've spent all together.

How have you spent this half-term week? Do you share my view on the enjoyment of extra time with your child or do you miss the break you get during term time?
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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee

As our long weekend in celebration of the Queen's diamond jubilee comes to a close, it seems only fitting that I write a little something about it. Whatever you think about the royal family, 60 years of being queen of England is impressive. If you think what has happened in that time, you realise how much she has been involved in and what a job it must be to keep up appearances for the country regardless of what might be going on in the world or in her immediate family.

She might be the queen but she is also a mother and a grandmother. She may be associated with a privileged lifestyle but no amount of privileges shield a person from the impact of family relationships and the ups and downs that are a part of life. She has had to deal with family break-ups, deaths and upset - the kind of things many of us might experience. I think that is worth remembering.

The diamond jubilee is one of those events that unites the nation and brings people together with a strong sense of patriotism. It's quite rare that you feel the whole country is joined together sharing in an experience and leaving all other cares aside. It makes a nice change! People fought the crowds and the rain to be a part of the celebrations, showing their support not just for the queen but for the country as a whole.

Did you do anything special to celebrate the queen's diamond jubilee?
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