Thursday, April 26, 2012

Watch Her Grow...

This Week's Foci: Language and Life Skills

Interactions with Materials
  • Q-ball now has her favorite books memorized.  She's quick to skip to her favorite parts (the only part of The Hungry Caterpillar  that we read is what he ate on Sunday..) and gets so excited that she'll anticipate what is coming next.
  • She's still really interested in clocks and looks for them or watches wherever we go, so she can practice her "Tick Tock."
  • She really enjoyed working with her stacking tree this week. It took her a few days, but now she will sit with it, very focused, for quite a few awhile (i.e.- a few minutes.)
  • She finally seems to have found a "lovey" or two!  One is a little blanket that her Great Aunt L made her. We started giving it to her at sleep times, and now she always looks for it. The other is her new pillow.  She's still trying to figure out how to use it, but she loves hugging it!
Interactions with Others
  • We have been trying to get Q-ball to stay in the nursery during church. Of course, we didn't think it would happen overnight, and we were right.  It's been two weeks now, and she is certainly not happy to stay with the lady at the nursery.  The phrase from last Sunday was "screaming bloody murder."  And, she was only left alone without Mama or Daddy for a few minutes.
  • But, she does enjoy playing with people if Mama and Daddy are close.  She quickly recruited another parent to play ball with her at our most recent park day. 
  • She loves her Daddy! She knows when it is almost time for him to come home, and she starts to get impatient.  Then, when I tell her he's coming, she runs for the door, and chants "Daddy, Daddy!" while making the corresponding sign.
Interactions with Space
  • She's become quite the runner around the house!

Interactions with Life
  • Q-ball is really experimenting with sign language now.  I can't always tell what she is trying to say as she either mixes up some signs or blurs over some of the movements.  But, she's continuing to try, and we have had quite a bit of success this week.
  • Since getting the floor bed, I believe that she wants to put herself to sleep at night or at least be laying on her floor bed (and on her pillow!) instead of in Mama's arms.  But, she hasn't quite figured it out. We've spent about 45-60 minutes of the past few nights trying to get it right, but we end up in Mama's arms in the end. I'll be interested to see how this pans out.
To see the rational and purpose for the Watch Her Grow series, please check out this post!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: I'm a Toddler!

She's been telling us that she was ready for to ditch the high chair. Q-ball was so excited when I was "installing" and "building" her new booster seat- she held the instruction book for me and wanted to immediately jump into the seat.  Funny how she could instantly tell it was for her!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Floor Bed: Merging AP and Montessorian Principles

The Situation:
       We needed a new sleep situation.  While I absolutely believe that it is perfectly normal for babies to wake multiple times throughout the night, especially in the first months of life, when this lasts for nearly 13 months, it is exhausting and can lead to Mama-meltdowns.  Q-ball “slept through the night” (actually defined as sleeping for 5 consecutive hours) for about 2 blissful weeks when she was four months-old.  Since that time, we have experienced nightly wakings ranging from 40 minutes to 3 hours.  Most nights she wakes up about every hour or two with an occasional 3 hour stint (which most commonly occurs from 7pm-10pm, so do not believe that Mama actually got three hours of sleep.) She typically nurses back to sleep in our rocking chair, but will increasingly go back to sleep with me rubbing her back while resting in her crib.  Most recently, she has enjoyed keeping Mama awake for 2-3 hours straight in the wee hours of the morning with no identifiable cause and waking up every 10-15 minutes for an hour or so.  These nights lead to a very cranky family the next day.  So, we needed a new sleep situation.
          Within our household, we largely abide by two guiding philosophies of raising Q-ball: attachment parenting and Montessorian, adding our own twists here and there.  By and large, I believe that these philosophies work hand and hand.  But, there are two major issues in which they diverge: sleeping and eating.  Here, I will compare their standpoints on sleeping, and how we are attempting to merge the two within our household.

Attachment Parenting
       Attachment parenting encourages parents to “Engage in Nighttime Parenting.”  While this is often interpreted as bed-sharing, it actually involves the broader definition of co-sleeping (using Dr. James McKenna’s definition of “sleeping within sensory range”.)  While I will not go into all of the how-to’s and justifications of co-sleeping and engaging in nighttime parenting, in general, I will say that we choose to follow this practice as we believe it recognizes an infant and young child’s developmentally appropriate capabilities to fall asleep and stay asleep while fostering the mother-baby breastfeeding relationship.  Furthermore, this is how we believe we can best provide consistent love and support for our daughter.  “Cry-it-out” and other sleep training methods are not options for us with these ideas in mind.
      In keeping with the AP philosophy and, more importantly, our own beliefs on parenting, we co-slept with Q-ball until she was 4 months-old.  At that time, we moved her to a crib in her room.  I have continued to immediately respond to all of her cries or, more likely, calls which I can hear through the walls or on the baby monitor. I half-heartedly attempted the No-Cry Sleep Solution, but, frankly, I don’t have the emotional stamina or patience.  We have also tried bed-sharing, but when Q-ball sees Daddy, she thinks playtime, so this method simply did not work for us.  So, what else could we try?

Dr. Montessori’s Philosophy
        Dr. Montessori’s philosophy encourages parents to provide babies with a floor bed or a futon in lieu of the traditional crib.  A floor bed helps foster some of the key principles of Montessori's philosophy: participation in family life and independence.  Because the baby is free to move from the bed at will, the floor bed respects the baby's desires and decisions.  The bed is typically placed in the child's room- a move away from the AP approach to sleeping.  I have been interested in this idea, but when I really dig into many of the examples I find on the various blogs and Montessori websites, it seems the parents employ the CIO method to teach their child to move to their floor bed to go to sleep.  

Our New Situation:
      In an attempt to merge these two ideas, Daddy packed up Q-ball’s crib and put her crib mattress on the floor.  Instant floor bed.  Because the mattress is high (about 8 inches) we have placed pillows around the bed until Q-ball learns to control her nightly flips and turns. How's it working?  We love it!  No injuries, and I believe we are upholding all of our parenting philosophies and values- even more so than we the crib!
     We are still engaging in nighttime parenting because I still put Q-ball to sleep every night.  Sometimes she nurses to sleep, but occasionally, I place her down on the mattress while she is drowsy and rub her back until she is asleep. I still respond instantly to her calls during the night.  Additionally, on nights when she is pulling an all-niter, I have slept on my own floor bed (a sleeping mat for camping) next to her mattress for an hour or two. I then leave the room, and she sleeps much better for the rest of the night.  This is an option that was not available with the crib, and it is making life better for everyone (especially Daddy who bore the brunt of the cranky family!)
    Q-ball is clearly excited about the independence that the floor bed fosters.  She clearly gets excited as she climbs on and off of it during the day.  We also bought her a small pillow with which to experiment, and she is clearly tickled about it- although she does not use it during the night. When she wakes for the day or after naps, she occasionally, but not always, climbs off her bed to explore the room.  I imagine these occurrences will increase as time goes on and she grows increasingly confident.

Nicholson, B. & Parker, L. (2009). Attached at the heart: Eight proven parenting principles for raising connected and compassionate children. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse. 
Olaf, M. (2010). Montessori philosophy and practice: Birth to three: A superior environment. Retrieved from

Do you use a floor bed? How do your honor your parenting philosophies at night?
Montessori Monday

Friday, April 20, 2012

An Infant's Role in Language Learning

    Q-ball is increasingly starting to experiment with language.  She is speaking more often (Mamamama, Dada, hi, bye-bye, Baba (our cat)), and it is obvious that she is more focused on what we are saying.  She is now able to respond to multiple commands and points to images in books when they are named.  Lots of recent research encourages parents to read to their children and speak to them during daily activities. By exposing children to language in these ways, parents are helping children develop their own lexicon.  These methods are part of the larger learning theory known as "scaffolding."  First developed by Leo Vygotsky, the theory stresses the importance of social interactions in learning and states that many activities can only be mastered with guidance from an adult or "more capable peer."
    Within my education experience, I have studied and used Vygotsky and other "constructivist" ideas rather extensively.  I was very intrigued, then, to read about the intentionality theory of language development.  Instead of focusing on the role of the adult in language acquisition, it examines the role of the child (imagine that!)  The authors of the study state that "scaffolding...and relative economic resources...ignore the child's intentionality, as a person with thoughts and feelings in consciousness that are about something. It is what a child's intentional states are about, and children's strong inclinations to express their intentionality by acting in order to share intentional states with other persons, that determine why and how language is learned."
   I thought this statement was fascinating!  And, how true! I read quite a bit of research about child development and, strangely, the child's thoughts and feelings are rarely taken into account.  The research is much more likely to focus on how adults can influence the children's actions.  This is clearly important for advances in educational practices.  However, as a parent, I am most excited about Q-ball's increase in language development because I am now better able to understand her thoughts and feelings.  
    Of course, the intentionality theory isn't just heart-warming.  It is also based on research!  Here's a rundown of the supporting evidence the authors found through longitudinal observations of 12 children in New York (they were observed from age 9 months until 15 months):
  • In daily conversations, mothers were much more likely to talk AFTER their children initiated the conversations.  Unlike the scaffolding model of language learning, the mothers were not guiding their children's conversations.
  • Only about one-third of a children's speech is in response to something the mothers initiated. The vast majority of the time, children initiated their own conversations.  Thus, "Participation in these earliest conversations was motivated by a child's own cognitive agenda to express something in mind, and conversations functioned to allow the children to direct the flow of the interaction in order to express and thereby share what was relevant to them."
  • Mothers typically respond by simply acknowledging or clarifying the child's comments. They are not "scaffolding" in that they are not providing additional words or working to expand the children's statements.   
This kid definitely is the primary driver of most things in our household!
   I should certainly clarify that the intentionality theory is not stating that reading and speaking to your child have no effect on language learning.  Quite the opposite!  Maximum exposure to language is still essential and incredibly beneficial.  This theory differs from others in that the child is the primary driver in his own language development.  He listens to everything around him and then picks out words that are relevant to him.  An example might be that the mother is working very hard to teach her child the word "broccoli."  She practices every day by giving the baby broccoli and repeating the word over and over, but he shows no interest. But, on just one occasion, she gives the baby a "cookie."  Guess what word he starts repeating every day!  Cookie- something in which he is very interested!
   This theory hasn't changed the way that I will be using language around Q-ball, but it does make me even more excited to see what she will say next!

How has your child's language development allowed you to better understand his thoughts and feelings?

Bloom, L.  Margulis, C., Tinker, E., & Fujita, N. (1996). Early conversations and word learning: Contributions from child and adult. Child Development, 67, 7,3154-31.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Watch Her Grow...

This Week's Foci: Language and Life Skills

Interactions with Materials
    • Q-ball really enjoyed taking control of practical life skills this week and worked to get her hands on "real" things whenever possible.  She's still very focused on learning to stir (is it still stirring if there's nothing in the bowl??)  and using a spoon and fork to eat.  She also loves picking up cups and drinking from them.
    • She is still loving books. We read "The Ear Book" constantly.  When she spots clocks now, she sways from side to side and says, "Tick Tock."  Daddy and I taught her yesterday that watches are also clocks, and she seems to be catching on.
    • She also loves her stroller!  About 3 weeks ago, I finally let go and removed the carseat from the stroller, so she no longer faces me when we go for runs or walks. It was a little hard for me, but she's loving it.  She's visibly excited when we pull out the stroller.
    Interactions with Others
    • She loves watching others.  At the playground, she'll stand at the bottom of the slide and watch the big kids go down and point and laugh at them. (She has quite the belly laugh!)
    Interactions with Space
      • No big changes with movements. Just lots of it!
      Helping Mama clean-up. Rice stir-fry is hard to keep on a spoon!

      Interactions with Life
      • She so wants to help Mama with everything! I can certainly see the emergence and cause of toddler tantrums!  This week she has really tried to help Mama load the washing machine, fold clothes, water the plants, and vacuum and mop.
      • I've tried to capitalize on these skills and reinforce our "clean up" practice.  She will now help me pick up a few bits of food that she "drops" from her high chair after meals.  It's still, of course, difficult to get her to focus on cleaning up all materials before moving on to something new, but I've still been diligent about demonstrating.
      • We really need to get more practical life materials for her size, so she can learn to help herself.  I often see the Montessorian phrase "help me help myself" in her expressions.  But, I often think she's feeling more like, "ERRR....HELP ME HELP MYSELF!!"
      What are your favorite sources of Montessori practical life materials?
      To see the rational and purpose for the Watch Her Grow series, please check out this post!

      Wednesday, April 18, 2012

      Wordless Wednesday: At the Park

      It's hard to find a good playground for toddlers and walking babies.  But, we've finally done it!

      This was not her favorite...

      Friday, April 6, 2012

      A Mother's Influence on Her Child's Diet

            Part One of this Science Friday series discussed a variety of ways that parents can influence their children's food choices. I know that I saw at least one finding discussed in Part one's post at our home this week- namely, a child's ability to control their own food intake. For Q-ball's birthday, we gave her sweet yogurt the day before her birthday, and she devoured it!  On her actual birthday, we presented her with her first cake and ice cream and expected the same results, but she barely touched anything!  I guess she knew she had had enough the night before!
      And, that's about all the cake and ice cream she ate!
          This post is going to specifically explore a mother's role in her child's eating habits. As one of the studies I read explained, "Mothers are often one of the most influential people in a young child’s life."  It makes sense, then, that the mother is often the one to have the most influence on a child's food choices. Obviously, I'm a mama, so I found this a really interesting topic to research especially as I am working to instill healthy eating habits in Q-ball.
           Many of the studies I found dealing with parental influences on children's eating habits focused on preschool-age children.  However, I did find one that looked specifically at a mother's actions while she was just introducing solids to her child- from 6 months to 1 year. Even at this young age, at least two studies show, how a mother feeds her baby is related to a baby's weight.  Mothers are much more likely to pressure their "skinny" babies to eat than they are "chubby" babies. This is especially interesting as it is rather common knowledge that fat babies are happy and healthy babies. (Good news for Q-ball! Just the other day a 8- or 9- year old boy at the park came up to us and called her fat!) Mothers who were deemed to be "controlling" during feeding according to researchers were more likely to have babies with slow weight gain.  I thought this finding was so sad- mothers might be jeopardizing their babies' health because of perceived cultural norms!  What is especially interesting about this finding is that researchers theorize that the mothers then see their babies' slowed weight gain as a success.  As such, they continue to restrict the children's feeding in the coming years, and, as we saw in the last post, this will likely eventually lead to overeating by the child!  What a cycle!
           On the other side of the food control spectrum is pushing children to finish their food. The method of directing children to eat was discussed in Part One, but this week, I am going to look at the issue from a slightly different angle.  Many mothers actively encourage their children to finish their plates or to take a couple more bites. But, studies have shown these reminders last beyond dinner time.  In one study, children were given pudding to eat in a laboratory setting on multiple occasions.  When the children's mothers were present (not encouraging them to eat- just present), overweight children (this specific study was comparing normal weight children to overweight children) were much more likely to eat more pudding. Not only did they eat more, they ate faster and took bigger bites!  The researchers concluded that in these cases, the mothers were likely contributors to their children's weight.
            Finally, it is difficult to look through too much research that discusses women and food without coming across information about eating disorders. Unfortunately, little research has been done on any possible effects that a mother's eating disorder may have on how she feeds her child.  But, at least one study does compare how mothers with anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), binge eating disorder (BED), and no eating disorders (No ED) feed their children.  No differences appear in pressuring children to eat across the groups. But, it found that mothers suffering from BN and BED were more likely to restrict their children's food intake.  Additionally, these mothers were much more likely to report that their children had anxiety issues and difficulty eating (although the researchers admit it is difficult to determine the causality of this reporting.)   The study is not a longitudinal study, so it cannot tell us the long-term effects on these children's eating habits. However, it is known that the odds of having an eating disorder are influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, so it can be assumed these children would have an increased risk of eating disorders.
         Another blog I follow, Parenting Science, recently published a post about the effect of a mother's weight gain during pregnancy has on the child's weight as an adult. I won't rehash the post, but it turns out that mothers the under-eat during pregnancy increase their babies odds of being obese later in life.  If you are interested, the whole post is available here.
           It's amazing to see the amount of influence that mother's can have on their children's daily habits! What struck me in these studies is that the mother's actions seem so off-hand or slight that she likely does not give them a second thought.  But, the long-term impacts are pretty profound.  It's certainly made me think about how I feed Q-ball and how I eat in front of her.  I vow to no longer eat peanut directly from the jar.  At least in front of Q-ball...

      Brown, A. & Lee, M. (2011). Maternal child-feeding style during the weaning period: Association with infant weight and maternal eating style. Eating Behaviors, 12. 108-112.
      Munsch, S., Hasenboehler, K., & Meyer, A.H. (2011). Is amount of food intake in overweight and obese children related to their psychopathology and to maternal eating behavior? Journal of Psyhcosomatic Research, 70. 362-367.
      Reba-Harrelson, L., Von Holle, A., Hamer, R.M., Torgersen, L., Reichborn-Kjennerud, T. & Bulik, C.M. (2010). Patterns of maternal feeding and child eating associated with eating disorders in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa). Eating Behaviors, 11. 54-61.

      Thursday, April 5, 2012

      Watch Her Grow...

      This Week's Foci: Language and Life Skills

      As promised, here are her 12-month stats- 22.2lbs (60% for breastfed babies) and 29.5 inches long.  She's keeps moving up the 5th percentile from her little 5.9lbs at birth.

      Interactions with Materials
      • Q-ball spent lots of time practicing with spoons, forks, and even a spatula this week.  It's amazing to watch little ones learn new skills- things we take for granted require so much skill and work! 
      • She's really enjoyed her new birthday gifts- her new table and chairs, baby doll, and stacking rings.
      • We've also gotten to play and find some Easter eggs this week!

      Interactions with Others
      • She loves playing the "gotcha" game with people. She'll pretend she's going to hand you can item, and then quickly snatch it away and do a belly laugh.
      Interactions with Space
      • She's still walking all over the place.  This week Daddy showed her how to jump, and she's been trying to figure it out.
      • She's also trying to figure out how to sit in her new chairs- they are still a little tall for her.  But, it is funny to watch because once we set her in a chair, she'll just sit and clearly savor it. Again, the joy of the little things in life!
      • We love playing outside in water!

      Interactions with Life
      • Now that I have a little toddler, I'm trying to make some changes. For one thing, we've been focused on having her take responsibility for cleaning up her space. Obviously, it hasn't happened overnight, but it has been quicker than I thought. When she is finished using her materials (a blanket, books, cups, etc.), I tell her to "clean up, clean up, clean up", and she is now pretty good at return the items to their positions. 
        To see the rational and purpose for the Watch Her Grow series, please check out this post!

        Wednesday, April 4, 2012

        Wordless Wednesday: Using Utensils

        As I explained a few weeks ago here, I have been focusing on introducing Q-ball to utensils.  This week she has taken quite an interest and will sit and practice with a spoon or fork uninterrupted for quite some time.  This should not be confused with eating solids, as that hasn't really been happening!

        We tried the Montessori spoon activity. She's a little young, so beans were everywhere- we'll try again later!

        Sunday, April 1, 2012

        Easter Egg Art Project

        First of all, I cannot take credit for this project! Our neighborhood playgroup coordinator did all the work and planning.  Thanks, B.A.!

        Last week, Q-ball joined her neighborhood friends for an Easter/Spring art project.  The children ranged in age from 12 months to 4 years- it was very adaptable.  

        • 9x13 pan
        • Construction paper
        • Non-toxic paint
        • Hard-boiled eggs

         1.  Place construction paper in the 9x13 pan and add dollops of paint.  

         2.  Place hard-boiled egg inside the pan. Let the child roll the egg in the paint and/or shake the pan back and forth to roll the egg.

        3.  Taste paint..err...egg...Q-ball was the only participant that found this step necessary...

        4.  Display your child's beautiful picture, so they can enjoy it!
        Montessori Monday

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