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.

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Take a tour… part five

For the fifth, and final, house tour post, I will start with Elliott’s room. Once Oliver was crawling, we had to find a way to keep him safe from small toys. Elliott learned at a young age some items were not for eating, and I believe Oliver will be quick to figure this out. But right now, everything is sampled and felt with his mouth. Legos posed a real hazard. So once we determined Elliott had long enough legs (with the help of a stool), he got a gate for his room. On the other side of the gate is the stool so Elliott can step over and get in and Oliver cannot walk off with the stool. Oliver loves watching Elliott play and listening to the music from Elliott’s CD player. And I love not  running over every five minutes to supervise. In case you are wondering, we cannot just close the door and have it click shut because of Elliott’s door slamming ‘habit’. To curb that, a few months ago we put thin foam tape along the inner edge. Right now, it does not close completely and, when slammed, it slows down just right!

Elliott’s drawers in his dresser do not allow him to be independent in dressing, so I selected seasonally appropriate clothing and organized it out on his shelves. He has 10-12 long sleeves, 8-10 pairs of pants, 4-5 t-shirts, 2 pairs of shorts, 2-3 sweaters, and a variety of warmer and cooler pajamas. He is able to open his sock and underwear drawer so those remain in the dresser. Because our weather has been all over the place, we still have a mix of clothing. Once winter hits, we will remove the lighter clothing and add more warm choices. For months, this has been a wonderful solution. He has just enough items to choose from and I no longer worry the drawers will fall out on his toes.

Under Elliott’s bed are bins of trucks and cars and stuffed animals. He also has an old stereo to play CDs on, set low for ease of use on a Daddy-made table . This is another big attention grabber for Oliver. He loves buttons, even if it messes up the tune he was dancing to. Yet another reason to keep him at a distance, just watching and dancing by the gate. Elliott has one of our two fish tanks in his room to keep him company and is a very responsible feeder – with a very tiny scoop and tiny container of food. On the Daddy-made Lego table there are always new ‘special’ Lego vehicles being built so it always seems to be rather busy (messy). Next to that is a selection of books, which get changed every month or so. Of course we need a cozy space to read and the guest futon serves nicely for that.

In the laundry room, we keep the child-sized broom, dust mop, swiffer cleaner (easy to adjust to child size by removing middle snap-in section), dust wand, dust mitts, window cleaner, spill cloths, and a small vacuum. These used to be out in the living room, but as furniture was rearranged and Oliver began pulling up, we moved it behind a closed door. These supplies are fabulous… Elliott sweeps his lunch crumbs, washes windows whenever he pleases (typically when we have guests!), and occasionally dusts a few shelves. The best part is that he is completely able to clean up most messes without an adult.

 In the bathroom we have pulled out Oliver’s small potty to begin that fun-filled stage. We started about this same age with Elliott and found that while overall the process took longer, we were daytime dry earlier than typically expected. We followed a lot of the advice found in Diaper Free Before 3. And it was just right for Elliott… he was so proud of himself and eager to take part in learning this life skill. I am hoping for an even smoother transition since Oliver has such a good role model! Not visible are the baskets of underwear, spares for all the changes we will be making each day. The stool pictured is the lower one that Elliott can use now. We are saving the first stool Elliott used, the taller, two-step stool, for when Oliver can be sturdy standing at the sink.

In the corner we have a towel at Elliott and Oliver’s height and the mirror hung low, for checking a goofy grin or brushing teeth. We left one drawer without a child lock for wash cloths and toothbrushing items. Elliott is quite good at washing his own face on nights we skip a bath and is working towards flossing and brushing independence. He wants a little too much personal time though, slamming the door and practically yelling at us if we suggest he needs help. Unfortunately, when it comes to his teeth, he still does need some help flossing or brushing well.

 

Oliver’s room is by far my favorite for lighting. He has four window to see tree branches and our tall grasses swaying. But the winter is harder because it is the coldest room in the house. Aside from his dresser and cabinet (both complete with pinch-free child locks), he has a floor bed, a low book shelf, his walker wall, and his toy shelves which are just below the towering children’s ‘library’. While he is nearly beyond the use of the rail on the walker wall, he delights in himself, walking towards the mirror and laughing. The floor bed has gone as well for him as it did for Elliott. He occasionally stays up to play, but will fall asleep when he is tired. In the morning and after naps, he can easily self-entertain for at least 15 to 30 minutes since he has access to toys and books without any hazards for us to worry about.  Oh, and see that sweet little pillow? Elliott designed it after he saw the one I made for him room. It is an island with volcanos, trees, and a sun. Oliver is so lucky to have a brother like Elliott!

 

It has been fun showing you my home,  a bit of what the boys are up to, and how we try to foster their independence with our home environment. Because of the efforts put forth, I love our cozy little house and the feeling of security I have when we are all home together. I hope your home, whatever kind and wherever it is, makes you feel peaceful together.

 

take a tour… part 3

In our house we have two rooms that for us serve a very similar purpose, but I suppose could have been very distinct. We have two living  rooms, both available for child’s work and play with only one with chairs for adults. Because our house is small, our office had to move into the space as well when Oliver was born.

While I like the idea of children having space in each room for some items of their own, part of me does wish we had a more open play space (but with a door) so adults could have some peace while imaginative (loud) play occurred. I feel I often have to hush Elliott while Oliver sleeps or try very hard to tune the boys out while I get some of my work done. I love the stories and interesting games, but it can be overwhelming in a small house.

This is our front room, with our fishbowl windows we opted not to cover with curtains. We love to see out and have lots of natural light. So what if everyone sees us at night!   

In this space we have the computer desk, piano, and adult furniture. This left less space for children’s stuff… but we still have a book basket and child’s chair for reading, two open cabinets with baskets of activities, a closed cabinet with many puzzles and games, and a large play table for playing house/farm (or trains if the mood suits us to switch it).

 

The activities on the shelves these days: a basket of small toddler mouth-friendly toys, a musical piano, musical bells, a big bin of musical instruments, and children’s CDs on a low shelf (available for Elliott only, behind a cabinet door).

We also have out a wooden animal memory game (or picture cards for Oliver), a natural items basket (with shells, household items, pinecones, rocks, various fabrics), plastic art sculpture making toy, a race car track, a musical peacock, soft blocks, play silks, and a jack in the box. Oh, and a cabinet with puzzles and games. So as you can see, there was only a little space for children’s stuff in this room!

Truthfully, this amount feels overwhelming to me some days. I have found one thing though to help keep my children’s interest in books, toys and games high, but the clutter to a minimum for me. I have a large storage closet. As Elliott out grows something, I save it for Oliver. If Oliver is bored with the alligator pull toy, I bring out the rabbit pull toy from Grandma. If Elliott mastered the 8 sets of sequencing puzzles on the shelf, I add a few new ones in to the mix. If we have too much out, some items go up. And sometimes, we donate. I have a constant rotation of items or pieces to add to make something more interesting or more challenging. For this age, having less out but in an organized manner allows them to have engaging periods of play because all the pieces of an item are there, ready to use and the amount is not overwhelming. They are also able to be successful cleaning it up because the toy has a clear space on the shelf. The biggest challenge to this system is bringing out new seasonally appropriate books and engaging toys. It takes time to change what is out on the shelves, especially when I have an eager helper. Elliott is very capable at helping by bringing items we agree to remove and selecting new ones to put out, but it does take that much longer. He needs time to mull over the choices and suggest/debate with me about what he thinks Oliver would like!

Tomorrow I will follow-up with our other living room space, an area where we keep more of the Montessori materials and nature items.

come with me, take a tour… part 1

I would like to invite you on a tour to show you parts of my home. It is my interpretation of the Montessori method applied to the home environment. It is my attempt to raise my children in an environment that will allow them be more independent. It is not the most ideal home or the most ideal set up, but it is what we have found suits our family and our needs at the moment. And for anyone looking to give their child or children more independence in the home, it is really about what suits your whole family. If you have toddling twins, but also older children, it is likely you will not want certain activities within the little ones reach for your sanity. More activities may be in cabinets, out of sight but hopefully not out of mind for the older children. Or if you have only one young child, you may have less on your shelves, as not to overwhelm them with choices. Additionally, as a child masters some skill, say the ability to fill water from the bathroom sink and can be trusted to do so, then a water pitcher on the shelf is no longer necessary. As Elliott grew and as he welcomed his baby brother Oliver, the houses we have lived in have shifted for their needs. And it was not just putting on potty locks or moving the cactus. New activities have come out to match their needs and interests, furniture has moved to make it easier for an adult to safely supervise without interfering, whole cabinets rearranged to make space for children’s items.

But I believe that the biggest factor to making your home more attuned to your child’s need for independence is one’s attitude towards the child’s independence. And of course, this is the biggest challenge. We all say and truly believe we want our child to be independent and capable, working to the best of their abilities. But it takes time and patience, something many of us, including me, lack enough of. When I am wrestling the boys into socks, shoes, coats and hats on these cooler fall days, I keep telling myself to give Elliott time to practice his socks, the one tricky thing for him these days. Oliver forces me to allow him to participate. He now juts his foot out when on his stool getting on socks and shoes. He wants to do what he is capable of and he is helping as much as he can.

Our children need time to be shown how to do something and time to practice that skill – without criticism, without constant ‘helpful’ comments, without actual help unless asked by the child. Once mastered, they need the opportunity to use those skills to participate in the home. Though I know this, it is a constant struggle to me every single day. I can set out new activities, I can show Elliott patiently how something works, but in the stress of being with two children under the age of five, I can lose my cool very quickly with yet another water spill or when we need to try the zipper for the 10th time. So please recognize that setting up the home environment is just one step in the process to allowing your child to grow and learn according to their needs and abilities.

Because I will just have to add my commentary to my home, I will spread the tour out over a few days. To begin, step into our backyard.

 

From the back door, I can see the boys playing in their house, in their garden/mud/construction pit, in the sandbox, or by the swings. There is hard concrete for chalk and lately, Elliott’s massive sweeping project in effort to control the leaves. In the garage, we have two large set of shelves with outdoor balls, trucks, sand toys, bug collecting containers, bubble solution, chalk, and children’s garden equipment. Elliott also has a workshop table with tools and wood for a variety of woodworking activities. As an example of adapting, we did move this to be in an adult’s eye sight after a few wild episodes with the hammer and plastic containers! Our backyard is contained on three sides by fence. Since working with Elliott from a very young age, he has learned he cannot leave the back without an adult. Oliver is now starting to explore the backyard more independently so I know soon we will be using short phrases and reminders to keep him back when we absolutely cannot go up front. In our front yard is our garden and most of our flower beds, so it is a big draw. Plus, Oliver loves to walk down the driveway, right into the road. He has places to go.

 

In order to go outside, we have set up coat hooks and a shoe rack right by the back door. With all the rain coats and winter coats and light jackets, the coat hooks were so full I could not bring myself to take a picture of the mess, so I will just tell you that we have adult height hooks and child height hooks. This allows Elliott to hang and remove his own coat and little bags whenever he needs them. Below the coats we have a few pairs of shoes per person. Additionally, each person has a bin to hold their own hats, mittens, glasses, slippers, or other odds and ends. To have everything right there has made getting out the door easier. I can observe and help Elliott gather his gear and dress himself while dressing Oliver and myself. Over the past two years, Elliott has had time to practice and master putting on his shoes, velcroing his shoes, putting on his coat, zipping his coat, putting on a hat, putting on snow pants, putting on mittens, and putting on gloves. All that remains is socks. Those darn socks! Because as adults these skills seem so basic and now innate, it can be hard to trudge through each learning period. But when you see it all click for your child and they suddenly just know, it is amazing and can be such a sweet joy for them and you. And you can hope that what they remember is that self-satisfaction. There will be no external criticism or impatience along the way for them to remember, right?

I will be back soon to continue the tour with more pictures. Our house is not large, but this post is!

sound it out

From birth to age six, language is an area of great and rapid development for children. You might know that to be obvious, if you have a baby or been around one. We babble and coo and talk to our infants, waiting for that special first word. All that time they are learning as they listen. But once a child starts to speak and reaches the milestone of the first word and the first sentence, it is easy to forget the importance of language in a child’s life. Often, we are jumping ahead to a big milestone: reading. 

But in between there is plenty of growth and learning happening – pronunciation, proper use of pronouns and verb tense, vocabulary enrichment, and verbal story telling to name a few. Reading to your child is a wonderful way to aid your child’s developement, and is fairly well understood. We all know reading to children is important, so by all means, keep it up. But letting a child learn to express themselves and express their ideas often is also wonderful tool for letting them practice language skills and develop their own ideas. This is an important foundation to learning to read other people’s thoughts and ideas in books. A major principle in the area of language in a Montessori environment is let a child learn to express their own thoughts first, through oral and written language. Then, as they discover they can read what they wrote, they can begin to read other people’s ideas. After they know their own thoughts and have sufficient practice, they can grasp what other people have to say.

Ideally this should be a smooth, fun-filled journey of discovery for the child, one without worksheets and hounding a child to practice writing or reading. Obviously, this is not always the case. One was to make learning about language more fun is to play sound games. In the Montessori classroom, a teacher would have a box with small objects, such as a coin, a small bag, a replica of a turtle, any object that is easy to manipulate and easy to recognize. The teacher would remove three objects and carefully name the beginning sounds for the child. The child could try it if they wanted. The home environment will differ in how you present this material. At home with my son, we would go through as many as he wanted to do, initially doing the beginning sounds. Later, we tried to name just the ending sound. After beginning and ending sounds is trying to identify middle sounds. This is one activity that helps lead to a child who can use phonetics to sound out words to write. In the Montessori classroom, this would be with the moveable alphabet. At home, it might be with an alphabet or with a pencil. What makes this game so much fun at home is the box is filled with so many captivating small objects the child is eager to look them all over. It is great when the child makes the leap to realize they can name any beginning sound with all the household objects around them, moving beyond the box.

This is when another game can be introduced – around the house, on the road, waiting in the doctor’s office. It is basically I Spy but with beginning or ending sounds. This is for the child that has a good grasp of the sounds and familiar with I Spy in another format (items with certain colors or shapes, etc). If you are not familiar with I Spy, an example would be “I spy with my little eye something that starts with a ‘tuh” (t for table, in this example). The child is then invited to look around and make a guess. Then they can take a turn spying with their little eye while you guess.

All this sound work lays a foundation for the beginning of writing phonetically. Playing the games gives a child the sound, not the name, of the letter. Rules of spelling and complex words will come later. To encourage an eager writer, and later reader, sounding out is the best and easiest start.

Below is a list of the words to help you with the sound a letter makes. Of course this is not true in all words, but that comes later. These are the most common sounds for the letters and what will aid in writing and reading. Since most children are likely to learn the ABC song, and hear others around them refer to letters by their name, we find it easiest to clarify that all letters have names and sounds. To explain this to big E when someone watched him write his name and said “Nice E!” I said “Your name begins with the sound ‘eh’. The letter’s name is ‘ee’.” Problem solved!

When saying a sound do not include the vowel sound after it. Isolate the initial sound. This is a list for showing the sound at the beginning of the word. (This list is also available on the left sidebar as a page by itself.)

a= apple

b= bag

c= cup

d= dog

e= egg

f= frog

g= gap

h= hum

i= igloo

j= jump

k= king

l= lamp

m= mom

n= nut

o= octopus

p= pig

q= queen

r= rabbit

s= sun

t= top

u= up

v= vest

w= winter

x= box (end or middle sound)

y= yarn

z= zebra

I hope this can jump-start some fun language games at your home or on a long (or short) car ride. Many more ideas are available in books about doing Montessori education in the home if you are wanting to do more with your child, whether it is in language, mathematics or just setting up a home environment with their needs in mind.

cutting work

Although it is summer and most people are enjoying the pool or trails, I find the boys and I are inside more often than not. I believe we should be out,  but then I worry about heat and bugs on the baby and when we are out, I end up drippy and grouchy from the heat. So we are waiting on fall!

Because big E is restless and we have been learning shape names with the geometric cabinet, I got back out cutting work. We started this a long time ago, perhaps right around the age of 2, with straight lines. I made them quite thin and got scissors that popped open as his first pair. He liked cutting but grew frustrated if he did not cut perfectly. So now, older and more skilled with scissors, we pulled the shapes back out for cutting and making collages. I should note that between the time we put up the practice precision cutting, he still had access to scissors, but more for just free cutting practice. As his skills improved, we got out a child-sized, very sharp Fiskars pair – they fit his hand, and the actually cut well. Here are the types we used between the ages of 2 and 4.

   

 

In case you are inside more than you planned this summer, I uploaded the files to share – on the left side bar. It just requires construction paper or cardstock paper, a printer, and a paper-cutter (or scissors). The order we showed them to E was: straight lines, zigzags, curves, and then shapes.

And just in case it needs said… I know they are not much, but please, keep them just for personal use. No selling, no passing along as yours. Thanks!

October 10, 2010 – I have removed the files since boxnet was causing trouble on my site… If you would like the documents, comment and ask or email me. Thank you!

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.