Tuesday, 29 January 2013

When nap time evolves into quiet time

Before my son gave up his daily nap (some time ago now), I remember reading somewhere about having 'quiet time' as a subsitute. Whilst I thought it sounded like a good idea, I had trouble imagining how it would work in practice. However, when the time came to give up my son's nap, my husband and I introuduced the idea of quiet time as an automatic.

It turns out that it's worked a dream. In the beginning, anything that meant no nap sounded like a fun idea to my son so he took to it happily. Of course, what it consists of depends on you and your own way of doing things. In our house, it means we take some time to do some things by ourself, quietly. We're not strict about the 'quiet' aspect too much. If my son wants to spend his quiet time playing instruments, singing, listening to music, that's fine by us. I guess for us, the important bit is keeping himself happily occupied for a certain amount of time.

Here is a list of typical ways our son spends his quiet time:
  • Listening to music or to a story CD
  • Lego building
  • Playing with a favourite toy of the day
  • Drawing / 'writing' / stickers / inkpad and stamps / cutting / sticking
  • Pretend music class (singing and playing with a variety of instruments)
Some parents allow their child to watch television during quiet time and that's fine. However, the benefit of not doing TV at quiet time, is I think that it encourages your child's ability to play by themselves and find things to keep themselves busy. Especially when they are going to nursery, playing with other children there and having friends over to play, it's good to nurture their independent play too.

Quiet time used to coincide with my daughter's main nap of the day after lunch. Once my son started attending nursery in the afternoons, we switched to a shorter quiet time in the mornings, again while my daughter had a brief nap. When he starts school in September, it will naturally disappear during the week but I imagine we will keep it up on the weekends. Maybe we are lucky but our son enjoys his quiet time. He knows it's a limited amount of time and he often shuts the door on us and just gets on with it quite contentedly. We always make a point of doing something together right after quiet time as a clear change of pace.

Do you do quiet time? Have you any kind of structure to it? Does your child seem to enjoy it? What do they typically do during quiet time? If your child is still napping, do you imagine you will switch from nap to quiet time when the time comes?
photo credit

Thursday, 24 January 2013

10 things I wish I'd noted in the baby book

I was given a cute Peter Rabbit Baby Book with my first child and dutifully filled it in when I could find the time. I will admit there are gaps and it's never going to be complete but it has the main things noted. When I had my daughter I bought myself the same baby book to have as a record for her. Again, I've not done a brilliant job of writing stuff down in there but I have the odd evening when I sit down with it for an hour or so and fill in as much as I can.

Since having a second child, I've referred back to my son's baby book several times to remind myself of when he reached certain milestones or did particular things, just to compare with my daughter. Obviously two children are never going to be the same but my two have had similar feeding and sleeping habits for example. Through this process I've come to realise the baby book often doesn't have titbits of information I'd really like. Maybe it's the baby book I have, or maybe these books are too focused on the big things like major developmental milestones. In any case, I've come up with a list of ten things I wish I'd noted in my baby book:

  1. When we first tried a bottle
  2. When we dropped the night time feeds
  3. When we gave up the 10/11pm bottle
  4. When we stopped with the bedtime milk
  5. First time they shook their head 'no' and 'yes'
  6. First five words and when they were uttered (excl. 'mama' & 'dada')
  7. When I started using salt in their food
  8. First ice-cream
  9. Age they moved into their big bed
  10. Age they were toilet-trained
As you can see my list concerns things beyond the first year. The baby book only covers the first year. I wish there had been a final page for post-1 year milestones like moving from cot to bed and when they were out of nappies. Of course, I can still go back and note these things in there somewhere but I have to dig out my old diaries and such like to find the dates.

There's also stuff in my list relating to eating and sleeping routines. Things like that are easily forgotten when you're an exhausted mother of a young baby but second time round these was the things I wanted to remember or be able to refer back to.

Then there are things that my daughter does now that I'm not sure if my son ever did. She loves to shake her head, mostly 'no'. If someone random says hello to her, she will in most cases shake her head 'no' at them. I don't think my son ever did that but it would be nice to look back in his baby book to see.

My son's first word was 'bear'. To my great disappointment, I looked in his baby book to see what age he was when he said 'bear' and I hadn't even written it down. Thankfully we've kept a family photo blog online where we put up a video of him saying it so there's a date and record somewhere but again, it would be nice to have everything recorded in the same place. Beyond 'bear', I don't recall what his next few words were and that's a bit of shame. My daughter has now said up to five words, in this order: 'hello', 'no', 'up', 'yes' and 'bird'. I must write those in her baby book!

The first ice-cream seems of interest to me because people always say the second child gets away with a lot more and parents are less strict about things, mostly to avoid battles and meltdowns I suspect. I'm rather proud of the fact that my son was three before he had his first ice-cream but I already doubt I'll be able to say the same of my daughter....

Are there things you wished you'd noted in your child's baby book? Have you ever had moments when you've looked back to check something and been disappointed to find it wasn't there?

Monday, 21 January 2013

This week: surviving the snow!

I started this post last week and never got around to finishing. Friday was a snow day in London, no school for my son and we kept cosy indoors while the snowflakes fell steadily.  We did Lego building and baked some cookies. Over the weekend we got out in the snow, threw snowballs and built a snowman.

It's fun to have the snow for a day or two when it has the kind of novelty value it does in the UK. It's pretty to look out at from the window of a warm home, it's invigorating to run around in it and play outside wrapped up in hats and gloves until the cold hits you. After that, it gets a little trying. It's difficult to get out anywhere, especially if like me, you have a younger child in a buggy to push through the snowy pavements. Before long you can feel a bit trapped in your own home!

The best thing to do is keep busy, plan some different activities to make the snow days enjoyable. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for keeping occupied at home during snow or other bad weather days:

Cooking: cookies, cake, cheese straws/biscuits or get your children involved with helping make meals like pizza, stuffing pittas with falafel / cheese / salad / veggies, savoury pancakes etc.

Building: Lego, blocks, shoe boxes can all be good for constructing any number of things. You could also build a little house/tent with sheets/blankets draped over chairs etc

Active play: hide and seek, hopping/jumping type races in a safe area of your home can all be good ways to burn off some energy. See more ideas here.

Art & crafts: try some of the following:
- draw or help your child draw a snowman and then stick cotton wool all over and decorate
- provide some empty cereal boxes, toilet rolls, yoghurt pots etc and a roll of masking tape for them to make their own random creations
- kitchen roll rocket
- sock puppets
- homemade art materials
- homemade wrapping paper: spread out a roll of plain paper and let your little ones loose with the paint (sponges, potato printing, rollers can all look quite effective). Leave to dry and you'll have some very unique wrapping paper.
- playdough (either ready made or make your own first)

Have you had any snow where you are? What kind of things do you do to keep your children happily entertained when you are stuck at home?
photo credit

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Appreciating the here and now

Every so often I am struck by the wonder of a particular moment I am experiencing. It's a kind of, "wow. There is nothing better I could possibly be doing right now" moment. It happened yesterday afternoon....

My son was home from nursery and I was starting to cook dinner. Both children were in the kitchen with me playing happily while I was preparing vegetables and such like. We had the radio on and a song came on that I started singing along to and dancing to. Then I noticed my one-year old daughter dancing and then my son joined in and the three of us were dancing and laughing there in the kitchen together. That's when I had the thought about what a special moment it was and for several reasons.

It wasn't so long ago when the pre-dinner hours were stressful and a little unpleasant if truth be told. I rarely had the luxury of starting to cook a dinner from scratch at that time, as my daughter was often tired, hungry and generally a bit irritable. If I wasn't holding her or sitting on the floor with her, there would be loud crying and it would be a difficult time for both my son and I. So at that moment in the kitchen yesterday, I got a real appreciation for the fact that those trying times are behind us and that the early evenings generally tend to be a lot more relaxed and enjoyable these days.

I also recognised the fact that my son and daughter can now play together more than they've ever been able to before. My daughter loves 'hiding' under the kitchen table. She'll go under the table and shout 'hello' and will then reappear with a big grin on her face. My son, recognising that his sister likes going under the table, now likes to join her under there and pretend it's their little house. That's what they were doing yesterday before the dancing. It's lovely to see them happily playing together and I think back to when she was a little baby and none of that was even possible. Now they can roll a ball to one another, or push a car back and forth....

Finally, there was the thought that any mother gets often enough, of just how wonderful my two children are, how happy they make me and how thankful I am to have these two little people in my life.

All in all, I was reminded of how important it is to stop and think about the here and now and be as grateful for the good times, as we are challenged by the difficult times. Some days it feels like a mission to make it from breakfast to bedtime, keeping everything together and we tend to focus on what needs to be done next or even wishing away the hours on a bad day. We shouldn't need anything special to happen to make us appreciate the here and now but sometimes we simply forget to look at what's right there in front of us.

When things go well, we often don't even stop to consider them and it's the frustating times that get most of our attention and energy. If we tried to make ourselves look at the here and now, as an outsider might, we'd probably surprise ourselves at just how well things go most of the time. Next time you're doing something, try to resist thinking about what you have to do next or how long is it til their bedtime. Look at what's happening in front of you, be aware and see what you might have otherwise been missing.
photo credit

Friday, 11 January 2013

This week: friendly dragons

Coincidentally, after writing my previous post about my son's night time fears and awakenings, someone else I know mentioned her three-year old daughter had suddenly started talking about a scary black dragon in her bedroom. She claimed she needed to run away from it and was going into her parents' bed in the middle of the night.

One of her favourite books is Room on the Broom and her mother assumed the dragon idea came from this book, in which a dragon tries to eat a witch. She therefore was asking around for some friendly dragon stories she could read to her daughter. A few books were suggested by some other mums and I thought they'd be fun to share here too. It's always nice to have book recommendations and you never know if you might need a friendly dragon story one day!

 Have you read any of these books? Do you have any other friendly dragon books you would recommend?

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Night time fears of a four-year old

Our four-year old son has been waking in the night fairly frequently of late, coming to tell us about something that has scared him, awoken him and made it difficult for him to get back to sleep. Sometimes, he is visibly upset and crying a bit, other times he just seems a bit puzzled and half-asleep about whatever it was.

To give some examples, there's been general strange noises, feeling something near him on his bed, last night it was flies (which this morning he explained had come in through a hole in the wall in the kitchen and come up to his bedroom). Weirdly, he showed me a hole in the kitchen wall that I had never even noticed before (it's a significant circular hole too).

We're aware that he's at an age now, where his imagination is really developing and it has its advantages and disadvantages. He is going through a stage of loving made-up stories from my husband and I, instead of reading story books before bed. He likes to be involved in the creation of the story we tell, often making suggestions of scenarios, characters and events. It's fascinating to watch and listen to him come up with these ideas.

Yet at the same time, the make-believe world crosses into the real world and it's difficult for a young child to always distinguish between what is imaginary and what is real. Sometimes they may have a vivid dream, sometimes they may have been awoken by something external and then lie there in the dark with their imagination running wild. Books and television can introduce new ideas to their minds that may fuel new fears.

So how does one deal with the night time fears of a four-year old? So far, we have been giving big hugs, listening to what our son has been scared of, tried to offer some reassurance and then suggested a toilet visit before bringing him back to bed. This has generally been working and he has managed to get back to sleep but I have been reading a bit online to get some more ideas.

The overriding piece of advice seems to be to acknowledge your child's fear, whatever it is and not to dismiss it and tell them they are being silly. To your child it feels very real, so you want them to know that you realise they feel scared but then to offer some reassurance.

In some cases, it is easy to provide a solution to the scary situation. It seems quite common for a child to be afraid of the dark. To put them at ease, you can put a night light near their bed, or leave their door open with a landing light on so they are no longer in complete darkness.

Scary monsters are another typical cause of night time fears. Some children may be comforted by a favourite soft toy to cuddle up to in bed. Another suggestion I read that I liked was to make a 'monster spray', consisting of water with a few drops of lavender oil. Spray away any monsters in their bedroom and the lavender will also help calm and relax the child, making it easier for them to go back to sleep.

I'd love to find some good story books that deal with the issue of night time fears, I'll let you know if I find some that I would recommend.

Of course, night time fears are not just for four-year olds! Children as young as three can experience scary night times and older children of all ages too. Have you had to deal with night time fears with your children? What were they and how did you tackle them? Was it something they grew out of fairly quickly or something that would come and go?
photo credit

Friday, 4 January 2013

Start as you mean to go on

I've not been big on new year's resolutions for a while now, but I do appreciate the fresh start that comes with a new year and whilst not making resolutions per say, I do certainly have a think about what I could do to improve my life, relationships, well-being and overall happiness. I like the idea of making small but regular changes that over the long term can make a big difference.

As an example, here's a list I read recently entitled, 'What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?'. Some may be obvious, like exercise. We all know we should do it regularly and that it really does make us feel better, healthier and does probably improve our life. However, there are a couple on there that I thought were less obvious and good to take note of:

Express gratitude - I've read this a lot in the past year or two, specifically regarding its relationship to one's happiness. It's one of those things that sounds so easy to do on a daily basis but a lot of us are out of practise and it takes a conscious effort to stop and do it each day until it becomes a habit. I keep meaning to try it, really I will.

Meditate - This word for some people will bring up images of Buddhist monks in robes or similar. It can feel like a difficult task for those who are not used to having any quiet moments in their daily life, switched off from their TVs, phones, computers and all other eternal stimuli. You don't need to go to a class or listen to special music to meditate. You can start by simply making time for a quiet few minutes alone, sitting or lying still with your eyes closed and the most difficult part of all, trying to reject all thoughts that come to your head, to just breathe and be.

Challenge yourself - As a stay-at-home mum, I find this depressingly, the hardest thing to do of all. I recognise how important it is to keep one's mind in good condition, just as we strive to do with our bodies. However, after a day of looking after two young children, I invariably find myself exhausted and it even takes a lot for me to read a page or two of a book in an evening, let alone do something to challenge myself! Yet, of course I shouldn't feel defeated before I even begin and as with anything, it can be achieved with small steps. It's a matter of deciding on a simple approach that can fit in with your own life and schedule.

I hope you find the list gives you some ideas and inspiration and I would love to hear if there's anything either on the same list, or something else that you have decided to try to incorporate into your daily life throughout 2013.
photo credit

Here are a couple of new year posts from previous years that you may enjoy re-reading or having a look at for the first time:
Following dreams
Your annual review

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Family organisation for the new year

Happy new year to all my readers! Hope Christmas was a good time wherever you were and a chance to spend quality time with your loved ones.

Two Christmas presents I take a lot of enjoyment from each year are my Moleskine diary and in recent years a family calendar that hangs in our kitchen. Last year I discovered the K Two family calendars (pictured) which have five columns (one for each family member) and a handy pocket for each month where you can store things like party invitations, tickets or other relevant papers for that particular month. I find this format of calendar really helpful to keep me organised. The separate columns are ideal for keeping track of play dates, doctor's appointments etc for each of the children (my husband's column and mine never seem to be so filled up!). There is also an additonal column to note birthdays.

I still like a physical diary to write appointments in and as I've written about before, I keep a one-line journal too. I suppose one day I will probably convert to using a calendar on my phone or online somehow but I'm not ready for it yet. My sister-in-law was telling me about the calendar on the iPad which she thought looked good for keeping on top of everything for the family and she also pointed out the advantage of using reminders on your phone or other device for things like weekly classes / lessons for the kids which I hadn't thought of before. Seems like a handy way to ensure you get where you are supposed to be!

Of course I am one of those people who likes writing stuff down generally. I like writing lists and crossing things off my lists, I like writing down notes, ideas, plans. Maybe that's why I like and take a certain satisfaction in writing everything on my calendar and in my diary. It's not for everyone and nowadays there are certainly some very sophisticated ways online for example to keep your family schedule and appointments well-organised.

How do you it in your family - do you use a calendar or diary or do you rely on your memory and/or your phone to keep track of important dates, classes, appointments etc?