how to avoid destroying the world

So I have tried hard to strike a good balance between teaching Elliott about recycling, conserving, reusing, and human’s effects on the environment. Because I see him dig through the recycling bin to find items that can be reused in his crafting and he enjoys dumping scraps in the compost, I assumed we were handling these issues in a very effective, age-appropriate way. Awareness with action.

Then today he raised this question while carrying his (pretend) duck – “Why are humans destroying the world? I am saving this duck because the world is being destroyed.” I guess it is time to dial it down a notch.  

I would love to hear other people’s ideas on teaching children to cherish and respect our earth, ways you have found to avoid the scary, doomsday approaches (which I really thought we were not doing!).

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money, money, money, money!

When you say a word so many times, it seems to become meaningless. Money feels that way sometimes. And really, the value I want Elliott to see in money is that we don’t need more to feel better and there is so much to value outside of what money can buy. But, that said, I still want him to have a clear understanding of saving money, spending wisely, and caring for others (in a financial sense; other volunteering to care for others is another area we are addressing). So after talking with a friend about an idea from The Simple Dollar I realized that this was what might work better than our current system.

Right now, Elliott has decorative piggies who gladly eat his money. And had they been like mine as a child, requiring ‘slaughter’ to get the reward, he might have been more inclined to save for longer.

My sister Michelle and I at age 5 1/2 dig into my piggy.

(No, I did not actually use the knife myself)

Unfortunately (not so in his opinion) the plugs are easily removed on his pigs. As birthday and holiday monetary gifts have been given, he is quick to turn around and want to spend, spend, spend. That money teases and taunts him to spend it, and fast. Nearly 4-5 times a week, I will be asked when we are going to the store and if he can buy something. Even the suggestion of only taking out a few dollars and saving the rest is not working. The very next day after making a purchase, he will ask to buy something again.

So, upon hearing this idea, I loved the idea of having separate areas for separate purposes and, being cheap right now, I really liked a comment suggesting merely using jars instead of a new piggy. So today, knowing he already had $17+ begging to be spent, we got four ball jars, discussed the categories and what they meant for him, and prepared the jars. We have 4 categories as suggested – Spending, Short Term Savings (for more special things), Long Term Savings/Investing (into his existing savings account we contribute to or bonds or something to be determined later), and Donation.

At first he seemed bothered with donating, but after explaining ways we have given to people previously and options he had, he seemed onboard with that part too. We then divided $3 into each jar, with the rest being put into his ‘Spending’ jar. In this case we allowed a heavier amount to be added to this jar since he just got Valentine’s Day monetary gifts and had been saving this money for a few weeks. From here on out, his allowance will be $4 a week ($1 for each year old) and $1 will go into each jar. Birthday gifts and other gifts will be his discretion since they are gifts. And I secretly hope he will decide to save some, not just lump it into the spending jar! A parent can hope, right?

It is not fancy, but hopefully he will clearly be able to understand the concepts and have a good foundation for managing the money he does have.

little helper

Lately, quite sadly I must say, tender feelings for Elliott have been far and few between due to his monstrous behavior. But seeing spoons in the fork drawer made me think fondly of my little sweety. Here is how I got spoons in the fork drawer.

Earlier tonight, ever tired of asking him to pick up before moving on to the next thing and sensing I would get the same lack of energy turned tantrumy nastiness as usual. And being fed up with load after load of my work, I offered a switch. I would pick up his toys (which were really quite few) and he would unload the dishes. He happily agreed. In a few minutes I finished and asked him what I should do now. I assumed he would say help him, but he happily replied “Go work at your desk or something.” What can I say to that but ‘Okay!’

He used his learning tower to climb to put pots away. He stacked things on the counter he was too short to put away. And he never asked for my help. I only finally intervened when the stack of items became a bit too precarious. Even then, I only did the counter dishes, not what was left in the dishwasher. Once finished, he was happy. I was happy. A crisis averted!

So tonight while I unloaded yet another load of dishes, grumpy and worn out, seeing that he had to climb up to the drawers and find the place for spoons made this little mistake so very sweet. He was working so hard tonight to do it all by himself.

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I originally tried to post this last night but our internet was on the fritz.

Today, Elliott and I changed jobs again. I picked up his room and he made his school lunch. He did a great job, even selecting items from nearly all the food groups. He felt very proud that he cut his own pear (which I came to supervise), packed it all up, and cleaned up.

my little ballet boy

Tonight I was quite torn on how to help Elliott. After his tap and ballet class (with a surprising healthy mix of boys and girls), we went to buy new dance slippers. His tap shoes fit well, but his dance slippers needed to be bigger. Since I just bought girl’s dance slippers at Meijers last time, off we went. Once we found them and figured out he was a size L, it seemed simple. There was pink and black. I grabbed black. But he stopped me, saying he wanted pink.

Before I go on, I will clarify my feelings on boys and pink. I actually have no real issues with little boys (or men) wearing pink, liking pink, and so forth. But I am very aware of other people’s feelings on little boys and pink and how they may have influenced their children’s feelings on pink.

So, I did not flat-out refuse, but I did not just toss the pink slippers in the cart either. We talked about it. I asked him why he wanted pink and he explained he saw others in class wear pink and he liked pink. I explained that often boy dancers wore black, but he could do what he wanted. Still he wanted pink. And then I got to the heart of my concern. I explained that other children might say something to him. Would he feel okay and want to keep wearing them? (See, my financial side kicked in too. I did not want to be back at Meijers after the next class buying black slippers.) He insisted he wanted them. Part of me wonders if he sensed the bit of rebellion in choosing them too, since he said it with such a big grin. But, regardless, now we own pink satiny slippers for dance class.

When he first said pink, I thought to my friend Jennifer who strongly supports her children’s decisions and think about how confident and in control it must make them, to make decisions for themselves and know they are supported regardless. I want to be that parent. But I also want to shield my child from nasty cruel remarks or even just snickers, mainly because I am worried it will destroy his confidence in his own decisions. I know – it is a lot wrapped up in dance shoes! And children overcome so much. But I guess that is part of being a parent. I just hope I found the best way to handle it tonight.

role reversal

Typically, you have a child whining for a toy or cookie. Today though, I felt like the whining kid, throwing out any thing I could to get what I wanted. Here is how it played out, driving right from the Y to Starbucks:

Me: Lets go get my coffee then we will head for home.

Elliott: Why do you buy coffee?

Me: I like it.

Elliott: I know, you could just make coffee at home! (expressed like a lightbulb/aha moment)

Me: But I like their coffee. It just tastes better than what we make at home. (slight pause, feeling desperate, pulling out the big guns…) Plus, if I stop getting coffee, then you won’t be able to get a cookie there either.

Elliott: But we could just make cookies at home! (stated like another brilliant idea had come to him)

(And brilliant it was, I know.)

Me: (with reluctance) You’re right. How about I skip the cookie and just get the coffee? (knowing full well I had a secret biscotti tucked in my bag) Maybe I will stop getting coffee too. It is expensive. We can make cookies this weekend if you want.

Had we not arrived at Starbucks at that point, and he was a bit older, he may have also pointed out the idiocy of driving right from the Y to Starbucks where I would consume the calories I just burned. But as I sip my coffee and munch my biscotti, at least I can say my whininess did not end with a tantrum. Because for today, I got my way. Hehe…

baby Ott love

I was thrilled that I was quick enough to capture this. Baby Ott is a fast nurser! I had to share for the humor and the sweetness. It makes me feel all gushy about my little big boy.

food with the bigger wee one

All the trust we have given to big E in regards to meal time and eating have turned out to be wonderful preparation for caring for himself and his family. This has been extremely helpful on days when I have my hands full with little O or I am preparing meal items big E is not able to participate in.

 Some things we have gradually allowed big E to do on his own:

  • access his own dishes and cups in a low cabinet
  • putting away dishes, either handing some to us for high shelves or placing his own in his cabinet
  • setting the table with plates, cups, napkins, utensils, and condiments
  • serving himself a drink of water or milk from the refrigerator

 All of these steps occurred when we noticed big E accomplishing a new skill and needing more trust and responsibility. For instance, when he finally discovered he could open the refrigerator and repeatedly he seemed to get into mischief in there, I gave him something he was allowed to do – serve himself water. Once trustworthy with getting a glass, serving himself water, shutting the refrigerator, and walking to the table, we then placed a child-sized pitcher of milk in the fridge for him. With mastery of one skill he got to move on to a new challenge.

From serving himself drinks, he then decided he could serve himself an apple or a cheese stick from the refrigerator. From there, he thought he could self-serve from our pantry. The trouble is, I did not want him always climbing up to get food items or choosing unhealthy snacks (yes, we have just a few in our pantry!). So after reflecting that telling him “No, wait for me” in an angry voice was not the solution, I made a plan. But this was something that took me a while to see the pattern in and it was only by about the twentieth time I said it that I realized it was not working. He was ready for more independence and showing me.

I placed a small bowl in the refrigerator. In it is a yogurt, a dish with washed and ready-to-eat fruit, a few dishes of washed and cut veggies, and a few cheese sticks. I also prepared small plastic baby food containers for the pantry with various yummy and healthy snacks: raisins, pretzels, nuts, crackers, and cereals. I realized any container for either place would work as long as he could know what he was choosing without opening every container – either by being clear or labeled with a picture or writing. I opted for clear to save myself the work of labeling each one. I also wanted to make sure the container had an easy to open lid so he could be independent in opening it without spills. I placed them on a low shelf in the pantry. Because I know my son’s skill level, I knew he could already open and close the fridge carefully, open a yogurt on his own, get a spoon to eat it, open a cheese stick, carry a bowl of food carefully without spilling, open the plastic containers easily, make a choice from the ones offered, and clean up afterwards. All of this is important when giving a new level of trust or a new challenge so they can succed – they have to have mastered all the other skills to take on some new challenge without frustration.

Today I showed him his choices and explained what he was allowed to do: get a snack on his own if I was unable to assist him when he was hungry, choose one from the cabinet and one from the refrigerator, and how to clean up afterwards, replacing any large uneaten portion to the proper place and placing dishes by the sink. If he needed help with a different snack or cutting something, he would be expected to wait. If I was engaged in preparing a meal, he might hear me tell him “No”. He was receptive to those limitations. He may be less so when we have to enforce them, but that is another day!

The extra time it may take me to help him towards independence is important to me in the long run. By showing him how to care for himself, he becomes more capable and frees me from some of those tasks he can do for himself. And it boosts his confidence in himself, one small step at a time. Unfortunately, I did not have the camera ready to capture his satisfaction at serving himself his entire snack, but it was great!

food with the wee one

This post will actually be a two part post. As I was arranging big E’s snacks for the next few days, a new system we will test starting tomorrow, I was thinking over the steps we took to get him to this point. Which brings me back to the beginning, where little O just happens to be.

Little O has been on the mushy, sloppy food and some finger foods diet for about 2 1/2 months now. He knows how to have a bite, can pick up some items with that wonderful pincer grasp, goes after the spoon to do it himself, and is tickled that he can slurp water. With big E, we followed the Montessori method and used a small chair and a weaning table (the white table pictured in this post). It was wonderful for snacks and meals. I found it easy to clean up, easy to keep him seated. And it kept him near the ground so he could crawl/walk to the table when hungry or leave when done (after a hasty clean up by Mama). But with little O, he is just not interested in the weaning table because the first few times he came to the big table in his high chair, he had so much fun watching big brother eat. So now, we exclusively give him solids at the big table and will just reserve the weaning table for crafting and activities as he grows.

There are a few elements that I have found to make meal time more conducive to our children’s sense of independence:

– the table and seat/high chair

– the bowls

– the utensils

– the cup

– the language and attitude

While a weaning table and low chair would be my first choice, it just is not always easy to fit in another piece of furniture or, like the case with our #2 child, baby just does not want to be left out of all the fun! Since we do snacks with big E too, little O is never alone at the table. For a high chair, I chose the Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair because it fit right up to the table we owned. We did not want a tray that forced him to sit farther from the table or a chair that was taller or shorter than the table. We wanted him to be right in there with the rest of us. With the Tripp Trapp, there is a nice baby rail that comes off to allow easy clean up or fully remove when the child is ready. When big E was around 18 months or so, we removed it and gave him a lesson on getting up and down safely. With many reminders, he learned how to be independent getting up and down from the table. (And when he got down, he was down. The meal was over!)

The bowls we use are child-sized, about the size of a small 1-cup storage bowl, similar to these or these. They are clear so little O can see the food he is being served. And they are glass. Contrary to popular belief that you should give a child plastic since they might break glass, Montessori principles encourage the use of glass, porcelain, and metal in the classroom to show a young child they can be trusted, they are worthy of that trust, and they must learn to take care of these items. Plastic feels cheap and is thus treated cheaply – tossed on the floor or beaten on. And if one feels an item is indestructible, one is also less likely to intervene and stop abusive, inappropriate behaviors immediately. I am not suggesting that I let little O have at them and break one though! Through language and gentle actions, I hold the bowls while he investigates them. I stop him from throwing them overboard and demonstrate how to place them on the table. And this is not accomplished in one day, or two days, even in a month. But we reap the rewards later, much later, when a child cares for the dishes – they can help set and clear a table, empty the dishwasher, and serve themself a snack – with an inner satisfaction that they are trusted and a responsible part of the family. And, another perk – we no longer have oodles of cruddy plastic bowls taking up space in the cabinets. (But we do occasionally break this plastic ‘rule’ – for on the go car snacks, we actually opt for plastic dishes or cloth snack bags or *gasp* plastic baggies)

For utensils, I loved the idea of a simple, all metal baby spoon and even own a few. But while my babes have cut teeth, these spoons have not been easy on their gums. For this reason, we did purchase coated spoons. They hold a small manageable bite, they are easy for a baby to take hold of and try to feed him or herself, and they are so simple they do not detract from the learning process of eating.

Since we chose glassware for bowls, we also chose a clear glass for a drinking cup. So many people laugh at the idea of the ‘baby shot glass’ but then after a moment, they realize that a baby can go from breast to cup and totally skip a bottle. Or, if bottle fed, they can be transitioned much earlier to a cup without the sippy cup transition. To some people, this is just shocking news. Not a sippy cup, but a real cup. From the moment we offered solid foods, we offered water in the cup. At first it was only 1/4 of the way full and I offered the water up to his mouth. Eventually little O learned how to hold it with two hands, but not tilt it back to drink (so I took over for that part). Now, he can hold it and tip it (but I have to slow him down if he gets too happy and pours it on himself). To get to this point was 2 months of skill development, and I know there are still more things to learn: controlling the cup to only sip the amount he wants, setting the cup down on the table, asking for more, transitioning to a larger cup (but not an adult juice glass yet!), learning how to drink with control on the go with straw cups, and learning how to drink from different sized cups while out and about. But look at the satisfaction!

If you are venturing to try this approach with a child, you must have patience. I still am frustrated the day carrots get dribbled down my leg, but I try to recognize each day what little O is learning at the table and when he ‘masters’ a step, oh, I feel his happiness at HIS victory! If it is overwhelming, start slow with one new change and observe how it goes over several days. That will be better for your baby too. You cannot totally mix up their routine in one day and expect an easy transition. We also have found sign language to be extremely helpful for meal times and eases a baby’s frustration since they eventually learn to express they want more or that they are full and done. Eventually you could move beyond those two basics and add done, drink, milk, water, even please. It tickled me to no end to see big E at such a young age sign ‘please’ ‘more’. Start early, as soon as you start with solids even. Results may take some time, but communication early on is so helpful and rewarding. And don’t worry: signing does not hinder verbal language development. In fact, it often allows them to speak sooner along with many other benefits.

And since all these skills revolve around food, feed your baby what you grow, shop for good foods at a local farmer’s market, or buy the yummiest foods you can find! What they are fed now sets their eating behavior and tastes as they grow. Let them try new tastes ‘straight up’ – no need to hide veggies in anything! Let them eat what you are eating when possible, grinding it up if needed. We love the Kidco grinder. Meal time is full of valuable life-long lessons in behavior, nutrition, socialization, and care of self and personal belongings. 

Just remember, with wee ones, independence is slowly, s l o w l y, learned. With each new opportunity you offer, there are a lot of restrictions until they can be trusted. Observe them and how they are mastering something before adding more challenge than they can handle. I will be back tomorrow to show what we are now trying with big E to give him more independence.

hot off the needles

Just finished… my first fair isle/stranded colourwork knitting piece made from my own simple design. It is a fish hat for little O, with a matching one for brother to follow soon. These were intended for the 2010 winter, but today’s weather warranted a fast finish for him to wear it. 

 

Clearly he is happy with mama’s finished work! And I am happy with how nicely and quickly it knit up. A nice small challenge for this knitter.