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.

Advertisements

keep it coming

As long as I keep the paper coming, the ideas keep flowing. For nearly an hour, Elliott has been painting with watercolors. This has led to imaginative scenes, funny stories, learning a new sound and spelling of a word (taxi). This also has allowed me a whole hour to catch up on emails and computer stuff. But that is not the highlight, just a little perk.

Today was another reminder (of many for the past two weeks) that following his interests will lead to him learning many new things, just not in the order or way I predicted. And while I would not say I am totally able to let go (yet?) and following unschooling ways, it seems that is how my child wants to learn, at least with the place and situation we are in now.

take a tour… part 2

 

Welcome to our dining room and kitchen. Since we ran out of space in our actual kitchen cabinets, we use a pantry for all dry non-perishables. Our clear glass Ikea cabinet has it good points and bad points… On one hand the boys can see the snacks they want and make a choice. On the other, the boys can see the snacks they want. This has led us to discuss healthy choices and unhealthy choices for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack time… time and time again. It has also led the boys to throw tantrums on occasion when they cannot have whatever their eye desires. (Yes, I realize I could just not stock it with goodies, but then Mommy would not have as many goodies. And sometimes, goodies are just good!)

Our dining table is also from Ikea. The chairs for the boys are both Stokke and we love these high chairs. We opted to use only the baby rail, not the straps. But once they figured out how to pull a leg out to try to get out, we have had to spend many a meal reinforcing staying seated or leaving the chair. It has felt harsh with Oliver at only 13 months to remind him a few times and then remove him for a minute while he screams on the floor, wanting to eat. But in 2-3 weeks the issue no longer seems to be an issue. He understands in some way what has happened. Eventually, the rail is removed and they learn how to get up and down in the chair from a very young age. For the first few months when this first happened for Elliott, it was a confidence boost 4-5 times a day when I could ask him to get himself seated at the table for a bite to eat.

If you notice in the picture we have two trash cans. Here in Muncie, you have a regular trash bag and then a bag for all recyclables. While that makes it easier to explain to Elliott about sorting since there are only two choices, what exactly goes where has been harder. I finally made a sign and taped it inside the lid with web images of all of the recyclables (newspaper, foil, glass bottles, aluminum cans, yogurt cup, and the actual recycle logo). Google image searches gave so many choices. For an older child who has trouble remembering, a written note might be helpful.  

 In our kitchen we use the learning tower to allow Elliott to reach the counter top to help measure, pour, mix, or just observe. He is now able to move it on his own and, since he can reach the dog biscuit jar, is now sole supplier of treats to Addison, our dog. Needless to say, she loves him!

 Soon Oliver will be up with Elliott. It will be a little tight with both in the tower together, but Elliott could easily stand on a stool now if needed.

Our kitchen is not ultra small like our apartment in Boston was, but it is also not grand and full of cabinet space. For that reason, real estate was at a premium and only one low cabinet could be given to the boys. It appears to be a bit cluttered, but Elliott is wonderful at maintaining the order.

Having even one cabinet has been wonderful though. If you do not think you can devote a whole cabinet in your kitchen, please find a drawer or small space somewhere. With access to a plate, a bowl, a cup, napkins, and utensils, the child can set their own place at the table, preparing their own snack even, if water and snacks are available. They are also able to put away their own items when helping with clean dishes. This is an example of the water and food set up we were doing for Elliott a few months back. While we abandoned some of the snack layout, the beverage pitchers are still the same. Many, many, many times I am so busy, I send Elliott to get his own drink and foods. Relief for mommy, independence for Elliott. He has gotten so independent lately that he has taken to setting his breakfast place and selecting his cereal before my husband even makes it to the kitchen. I only wish he could reach our plates and bowls. I feel he would like to help even more without having to wait for a parent. With another inch of growth, he should be able to reach from the learning tower very soon!

Thanks for coming along tonight… I will be back shortly for a tour of our living room and some of the activities currently available on our shelves for little hands.

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.

busy mama

It has been a busy few weeks around these parts. And when it does slow down, I am reluctant to sacrifice any free time I have to be alone with the computer. With all this warm weather has come family water play, picnics, and evening walks and bike rides.

But a few things struck me today as I rushed from one thing to the next and was mentally patting myself on the back for some calm and grace I showed while handling the boy’s particular ‘crisis’ of the moment.

When big E was born and my husband would arrive home, I would feel like the day amounted to very little. I could barely put into words what had even happened. HAD anything happened? Yes – rocking, crying, diapering, feeding, changing clothing, starting laundry, dishes, more diapering, more feeding, more crying. But those tasks just seemed like daily tasks and did not seem BIG enough to be worthy of making a day. They just seemed like the survival basics of raising a child. My husband was not concerned with what did or did not get done, even it meant folding laundry each night just to catch up with our little spitter. This helped as I sorted out my feelings about staying home and how to handle these feelings of the daily grind of being a stay-at-home parent.

Now with number two though, I have accepted that the basics is all that can be expected most days (and some days, maybe not even the basics!).  I am also learning how important those basics are too. How I serve lunch, how I handle a blow out diaper, how I get one child to sleep and calm the screaming child in the other room at (nearly) the same time, how I handle dropping my cell phone into the toilet in front of two pairs of eyes, how I express love, how I express anger – it is all important. I am raising children and they will be the adult soon enough, modeling back this behavior to me and their own children. Since I am far from perfect in how I execute my daily work, I felt I could pat myself on the back, while also making a mental note to try for that same calm and collected reaction the next day. (Where did I just hear this… Pretend like someone is videotaping you for some reality show all day long and see how your behavior changes towards your tasks. Worth a try!)

The other amazing realization today for anyone making the step from one child to two is that I feel like I get twice as much done in the same amount of time. Fancy that! I love what my friend Noelle had to say on the matter of adding more kids to the bunch: It just becomes your new normal. And it is true. It can be a rough few weeks, or months, adjusting, but it seems like it just happens because it has to happen. And children get fed, children get dressed, and mom can still get a shower and read a book in there too. It can be done!

So happy summer and happy family time! Now, time to get back to my little boys’ shenanigans…

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.