Tag Archives: babies

Routines and Rituals

When working with parents of toddlers and preschoolers, I talk a lot about the benefits of daily routines. Today I want to look at the difference between the routines of everyday life and the rituals of the year.

Routines Rituals
When: Daily or Weekly. Everyday life. When: Holidays, Seasons, Life Events
What: Predictable, reliable, easy to learn and to do What: Special, memorable. Specific to family / culture
How they make kids feel: Safe, competent How they make kids feel: Special, loved
Examples:
·       How they wake up in the morning
·       How you say goodbye when you go to work or they go to school
·       How you reunite and share your day
·       Mealtimes – Do you eat together?
·       Bedtime Routine
Examples:
·       Birthdays
·       Holidays: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, religious and cultural holidays
·       Life events: first day of school, graduation, tooth fairy, etc.
Hint from an experienced parent: Keep it short and simple! Hint from an experienced parent: Make it special, but not too elaborate or expensive. It needs to be easy to repeat if you want it to be a tradition.
How you know a routine is working for your family: It makes everyone’s life calmer and more enjoyable. You can enjoy it too! How you know a ritual is working for your family: It feels special, and meaningful and fun to you to. If you’re overwhelmed with stress trying to do something, think about how to simplify it to focus on what’s important to you.

When your child is young, it’s a great time to think about what you want your family rituals to be around holidays and special occasions. If there are traditions from your family of origin or group of friends that work for you, definitely keep doing them. But, if there are traditions that just exhaust or frustrate you, then having a new child in your life is a great excuse to get out of those activities!

Think about what rituals you would enjoy. What would feed special to you? What would be fun for you? What lessons do you want your child to learn about your family values from the way you celebrate holidays? When your child is one year old, test some out. When they’re two years old, repeat the ones that you liked, but drop the rest, and try something new. When they’re three or four years old, experiment some more. By the time they’re five years old, they’ll start noticing and remembering traditions, so it’s nice if you’ve found some good “keepers” by then.

When you do these rituals, reinforce their power by reminding your child that they are traditions: “Every year, you get to open one present on Christmas Eve” or “remember, last year when you were four, you found four balloons in the house – how many do you think you’ll find this year?” Tell them why you do those traditions: “I give you a book every year for your birthday because my dad gave me a book for my birthday every year” or “We always volunteer on Martin Luther King Jr. day because it’s important to work to make the world a better place.”

It’s OK if your traditions are different from their friend’s family! When your child says “How come my friend does this and we don’t” you can explain your family culture and how you make the choices that are right for you.

Learn more about daily routines here and specifically about sleep-related routines here.

Read more about birthday rituals here and more about using rituals to connect your child to his/her culture and heritage here.

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Recommended Parenting Books

This list includes 20 great books on parenting kids age birth to five. They are some of my personal favorites, and also include books frequently recommended by my colleagues in the Bellevue College Parent Education program. I have included affiliate links to the Amazon description so you can learn more. If you live on Seattle’s eastside, check out the spreadsheet at the bottom of this post to see what you can check out from the library for free.

Pregnancy and Birth

Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn:The Complete Guide. Simkin et al, 2016. (Fair disclosure: I’m a co-author on this book.)

Breastfeeding and Nutrition for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Breastfeeding Mothers by Mohrbacher and Kendall-Tackett. 2010

Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense by Satter. 2000

Parenting a Newborn or Toddler

Elevating Child Care: A guide to respectful parenting by Lansbury. 2014

The Baby Book: Everything you need to know about baby from birth to age 2. Sears. 2013

Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture shape the way we parent by Small. 2011

Parenting, general

Becoming the Parent You Want to Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years by Davis and Keyser.

Heart Tending: Creating Rituals that nurture you and those you love by Watson. 2014

It’s OK not to share and other renegade rules for raising competent and compassionate kids by Shumaker. 2012

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole Brain Way to calm the chaos and nurture your child’s developing brain by Siegel. 2014

Parenting without Borders: Surprising lessons parents around the world can teach us by Gross-Loh. 2013

Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by Gottman and Goleman. 2011

Simplicity Parenting: Using the extraordinary power of less to raise calmer, happier, and more secure kids by Payne. 2009

Child development / Activities that nurture child development and brain growth

Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from zero to five by Medina. 2014

Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Louv. 2008

Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Life Skills Every child needs by Galinski. 2010

Nurture Shock: New Thinking about Children by Bronson and Merryman. 2009

Tinkerlab: A Hands-On guide for Little Inventors by Doorley. 2014

Relationships (and the impact of children on a relationship)

And Baby Makes Three: the 6 step plan for preserving marital intimacy and re-kindling romance after baby arrives by Gottman. 2007

Sleep

The No-Cry Sleep Solution (or the No-Cry Nap Solution) by Pantley. 2013

Learn more

Here’s an Excel spreadsheet with another 30 great books to consider… Recommended Parenting Books from the Bellevue College Parent Education instructors.

If you find books to be an overwhelming time commitment when caring for little ones, and are looking for short, sweet, little 1 – 4 page summaries of key topics, you can check out my collection of handouts at https://gooddayswithkids.com/for-educators/

Question:

What are your favorite parenting books and why?

Passive Toys = Active Kids

passiveThought for the day, from a workshop based on the principles of RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers.): the more active the toy, the more passive the child.

An active toy that does something entertains – all a child needs to do is press a button and sit back and watch passively. A passive toy that doesn’t do anything engages – a child needs to be active to enjoy it.

Or as Magda Gerber says about her recommended play objects – all passive toys: What do [they] have in common? None do anything. They will only respond when the infant activates them. In other words our active infant manipulates passive objects. In contrast, entertaining kinds of toys, such as mobiles or later on, windup toys, cause a passive infant to watch an active toy. This trains the child to expect to be amused and entertained, and sets the scene for later TV watching.

Active Toys

Active toys also include: LeapPads, stuffed animals or dolls where when you squeeze their hands they sing a song… most things with batteries.

The ultimate in active toys is a touch screen device – I-Phone, tablet, etc. I’ve written before on the benefits and downsides of screen time, but the truly amazing things about these devices is their pacifying effect. My son can do an amazing transformation from Squirmy Whiny Disturbing-the-whole-restaurant Boy to Silent Child in less time than it would take to duck into a phone booth – all I need to do is hand him my Kindle or phone. And in moments he’s thoroughly entertained by a video or app. (Here’s thoughts on how to choose well-designed age appropriate materials.)

But, I think the corollary to the statement of “the more active the toy the more passive the child” should be something like: “the more effectively a toy pacifies the child, the more actively they will protest when you try to take it away.” Silent Child turns into Wild Screaming Misery Lad when I then try to take the Kindle away, or when, god forbid, the battery dies in a public place.

I do still use active toys (including the Kindle) at times, but I also try to balance them with a lot of “passive” toys – a lot of open-ended toys that encourage exploration and engagement. And I try to give him time – plenty of uninterrupted time – to explore them.

Some fabulous open-ended materials for toddlers and preschoolers:

Magda Gerber recommends (in The Best Toys for Babies Don’t Do Anything): balls, scarves, plastic bottle, containers (cups, bowls, baskets in many sizes and shapes). Or check out Geek Dad’s list: sticks, boxes, string, cardboard tubes, and dirt. And, of course, my favorite open-ended toy: nature.

Read more about open-ended toys: Here are a couple posts from Mamas in the Making, which are about toys for the 3 – 6 month old crowd, but most of their thoughts apply through the toddler years: Our Thoughts on Open-Ended Toys and Age Appropriate Toys. Check out this video, or many of the videos on Janet Lansbury’s YouTube channel for examples of babies at play with simple open-ended items.

Have enough toys… but not too many…

It’s easy to get excited about open-ended toys. Don’t go overboard though, filling the house or classroom with stuff…

Both at home and at work, I want to be sure there aren’t too many options for kids to explore. It’s great for kids to have some choices, but too many choices are stressful and overwhelming. When faced with too many choices, instead of engaging with one, kids may run from one to the next, never settling. Or, as someone said at my in-service yesterday: “If your child spends their playtime dumping all the toys out of the bucket, that means there’s too many toys in the bucket. Put at least half of them away for now, and the child will play more with what’s left.” Often, less is more. When we give kids the chance to really engage and explore open-ended toys, it’s amazing what they can come up with.

active

Just for fun: Check out this blog post on Being the Cool Kids on the Block, which talks about saying yes to your kids’ play ideas (within reasonable limits) and open-ended materials.
photo credit: ianus via photopin cc
photo credit: peterme via photopin