Forget the Flashcards

To be completely honest, I’m not a fan of flashcards. Interestingly enough, this video came up on my Facebook newsfeed today, because I shared it a year ago (thank you Facebook memories). I find them an inauthentic way to learn, as they aren’t contextual. I truly feel that the best way to learn anything, is in a hands on situation, with real life examples.

We’ve got colour and sight words flashcards because I thought they’d be useful at some point. I was also concerned, at the time, that Little Miss didn’t yet know her colours (or at least many of them). I think she was about two and a half at the time. But you know what? She’s got them down pat now. And it wasn’t because I showed her cards with colours on them, but because we talked about the colours we saw around us on our daily walks. The trees, leaves, flowers, signs – everything. Don’t you think that’s more fun than sitting at the dinner table, discussing what colour the strawberry is that Scooby Doo is holding? (Yes, they were Scooby Doo flashcards…)

I tend to worry, from time to time, that Little Miss doesn’t know this or that. Yet, I tend to forget that she has a remarkable knowledge of animals (she knows what an ostrich is), flowers, and My Little Pony characters. They will learn. We want to learn. Our job to not squelch that curiosity, but to feed it and encourage it. Today, we discussed magnetization, and the difference between The North Pole and the pole firefighters slide down at their stations. Conversations will naturally ensue, as long as you’re open to them.

So, currently I’m watching Little Miss as she learns her letters and numbers. She’s just started learning to play Dutch Blitz with my mom, which I hear has been quite fun. Now, in order to play, she needs to recognize her numbers. She’s been able to count to 10 for a while, and can pretty much get to 20, except for that pesky 15 which doesn’t always make it in there. But, it will come. I just don’t think I need to show her a card with the number 5 on it, versus going to a friend’s house, and finding the 5th floor button. Context has meaning, and dare I say, longevity for learning.

Blessings!

Liz

P.S. Have you ever played Dutch Blitz? It’s a Vonderful Goot game.

Dutch Blitz

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From Pinterest to Plain – A Birthday Party

Little Miss is turning 4 in a little bit, so we decided to have her first “party”. When I asked her what she would like to do, she said she wanted to go to the playground. Nice! Easy, and right within my budget. However, I must confess I was nervous. In today’s day and age of Pinterest worthy parties (you go, parents!), play places, and video game parties (that can run into the thousands), I felt like it simply wasn’t enough. I felt the need to do more.

Then I read, The Happiest Kids in the World, and I regained some perspective, and drew comfort that I didn’t have to “go big or go home”. We simply stayed home. (Actually, we went to another birthday party earlier on in the year, and my friend similarly kept it simple, and we had a great time, so that was also encouraging).

As I’ve mentioned before, we love reading The Berenstain Bears. We had been reading Too Much Birthday, and we drew some ideas from it.

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We went to the playground, as requested; yes, in Canada in November. We just bundled up, and the weather held out for us. Then we came back and played a few traditional party games. First, we played Pass the Parcel:

Pass the Parcel

Pass the Parcel

Essentially, it’s Hot Potato. I changed it up a little bit by adding a few stickers as a “prize” between each layer, so that everyone got a little something. I wrapped it up in newspaper, because I like to be Earth (and pocketbook) friendly. Next we played Going to Jerusalem, which is the name they gave a variation of Musical Chairs in the Berenstain Bear book. You have a mat (or in our case, a reusable shopping bag) on the floor, and everyone goes around in a circle. If you’re standing on the mat when the music stops, you’re out. The last one standing wins. Lastly, we played Freeze Dance. Dance, and when the music stops, freeze! If you’re caught moving, you’re out. Again, the last person standing, wins. They were simple, and fun.

We also opted to make our own birthday cake, although I was quite tempted to buy an ice cream cake, when I saw that Dairy Queen had them on sale for half price the day before. But, we’d already bought the cake mix (no, we didn’t make it from scratch…), and Little Miss was looking forward to making it. So, although I don’t think I’ll be winning any cake decorating awards, ta da!

Cake

The characters are her toys, so we just utilized them as decorations for the cake (it’s in the shape of a heart). Also, if you plan on making your own cake, I suggest buying 2 containers of icing, or the big one, otherwise you’ll be using chocolate icing to finish it off on an otherwise vanilla cake. It tasted delicious.

Lastly, the favours. I found this part to be the most stressful. I was planning on getting everyone a book (from the Dollarstore) as a thank you. Actually, I liked the idea so much that I had recommended it to other moms whenever the topic came up in my Facebook groups. However, apparently that’s easier said than done. I wasn’t fond of the book choices when we went, so there went that idea. I’m not a fan of stuff just for the sake of stuff, so I wanted something practical. In the end, we had some leather keychains at our store (spoiler: in the clearance section), and a friend of ours put each child’s initial on them in fancy writing. I figured parents could put them on a backpack, or even give their child a house key when they’re a bit older.

So, all in all, we had a great time. If you’re feeling guilty about keeping it simple, don’t. We all have different styles, and one is not more valid than the other. For us, this was right up our alley. I wonder what we’ll do next year…

Blessings!

Liz

P.S. Do you have your child open their gifts during their party, or after once everyone has left?

 

Lest We Forget

This evening, my daughters and I had the privilege of planting Canadian flags on the property of Sunnybrook Hospital here in Toronto.

Remembrance Day 2017

Raise a Flag at Sunnybrook Hospital

This is our third year participating in this project. The goal is to plant 30,000 flags across the grounds, so that on November 11th, Remembrance Day, the veterans at the hospital will wake up to fields of Canadian flags and know that we will remember.

Although we’ve been doing this for a few years, this is the first year that Little Miss has had so many questions about war. Why do we have an army? Why do people fight? Why? Questions that really make you pause, and think.

I happened to have purchased A Poppy is to Remember, by Heather Patterson, way back in my teaching days, so we brought it out this evening to help explain.

poppyposter

Given that Little Miss will soon be turning 4, this was right on her level, and she wanted to read it twice! Although the topic of war is tough, I think it’s important, and possible, to address it on an age appropriate level. Do you have any other suggestions for books about, or related to, Remembrance Day?

Blessings,

Liz

What’s an “LOL”?

“EEEEE!!! LOLs!!!” screamed two young girls at Toys R Us this evening.

I turned to their mom and said “I have no idea what an LOL is.”

“It drinks and pees,” was the response.

“So, a doll?” I reply.

Yes, a doll. This is what these girls ran up to:LOL Display

I had no idea what they were. I still don’t think it’s particularly clear by their packaging either, but I digress…

So, with Little Miss asleep in the shopping cart (YAY!), I went on my merry way, wondering what the big deal was. However, I assure you that had she not been catching a few winks, she would have gone by these unassuming balls of dolls without so much as a peep. Why? Because she doesn’t know what they are, either.

We don’t watch much TV. We try our best to be a low media household. When we do watch one of her favourite programs (Paw Patrol, Berenstain Bears or My Little Pony), we watch it on Netflix or YouTube. We don’t have cable – we haven’t since we moved into our house 8 years ago. (Psst… We don’t miss it!)

We only watch TV on the laptop through Netflix (I’ll explain in another post why we did away with the iPad – and it’s probably not what you think), and because we don’t have cable, we’ve essentially eliminated advertising directed at her, thankfully.

But Liz, you said you also use YouTube, what about that advertising? When we used the iPad, we had the YouTube kids app, because the world of YouTube is so vast, and parts of it are quite dark. There are so many instances of videos that look like they are for children, but have very disturbing, disgusting context. I implore you to be vigilant when using it! However, since using the laptop, we only have access to the regular YouTube website.

Now, we very seldom use YouTube, and when we do, we sit with her. It’s so easy for the auto play to suck you in to the next video, so we do our best to avoid that black hole and quit while we’re ahead. Because the sea of videos aren’t at her finger taps (see what I did there), she hasn’t seen anything outside of the selected programs we watch together. Although there is some advertising, most of it isn’t necessarily directed towards children (car commercials or cereal), and I can’t think of a time I’ve seen an ad for a toy. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that most of the advertising on YouTube is done through… Those Darn Toy Reveal Videos!!! Dun Dun Duuuuun!!!

Oh my goodness. These are the most ridiculous videos I’ve ever seen. These, and those videos of children playing with toys. One mom commented that she bought her daughter a toy, and before she started playing with it, she went and watched a video of another child playing with it for half an hour first! Oy…

So, how did I research these LOL Dolls? I watched a toy reveal video, naturally (on my own). So, let me tell you a bit about this “hottest toy”. You get a ball (seen on the second shelf). It is wrapped in layers of plastic (garbage). As you peel back the layers, there are papers that reveal “clues” about what doll you have received. As you get closer to the centre, you get 4 bags (more garbage) with a 2 small accessories (think the size of your fingernail), an outfit, and finally, the doll (4 bags, after about 8 layers – plastic, plastic and more plastic). Seems wasteful, and silly, to me. And I’ll be darned if I want a whack of little doll pieces all over my house. Please see exhibit 1, the purpose of our voyage to Toys R Us in the first place:

Rarity

Did I mention we have a dog? Anyway, as I was saying, I have no desire to have little things all over the house, especially with a newly cruising 8 month old crawling around. (I’m SO thankful we missed that whole Shopkin craze). Now, go back up to the first picture for a second. See the big gold globe at the top of the display? That there is an LOL Doll with 50 layers. Five Zero. That’s a lot of garbage. And, 50 dolls and/or accessories! Yee… Haw… And $100. It costs $100. $100!!!

Anyway, if you have ever found yourself with a child who is begging you for an item that you have never heard of, ask yourself how they heard of it. Maybe it was from friends. But, many of these “new crazes” get their footholds through YouTube and cable advertising (Hatchimals!). How many ads are children exposed to? The American Psychological Association states, “it is estimated that advertisers spend more than $12 billion per year to reach the youth market and that children view more than 40,000 commercials each year.” Read the full article here.

Personally, I think it’s important that we limit our children’s exposure to advertising, and encourage them to be content with what they have. We often read The Berenstain Bears books, and one of our favourites is Count Their Blessings, which addresses just that.

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Blessings!

Liz

 

Happy Dutch Kids

My mom is Dutch, so when The Happiest Kids in the World: Bringing up children the Dutch way was recommended on a Scary Mommy blog about raising a “wild child”, I chose to reserve myself a copy, along with all the others on the list.

Happy Dutch Kids

The premise behind the book is that Dutch children continuously rate themselves to be the happiest children in the world. This book delves into the whys and hows these children have found contentment.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It is written by two ex-pat moms who married Dutch men. Seeing as my mom is Dutch, I really enjoyed some of the stories, and felt almost at home reading about Holland in this light. In particular, I appreciated the reassuring comments about being comfortable with being normal (not striving to always be the best at everything). Even my oldest daughter’s beautifully simple birthday party has been inspired by this book (well, it will be when it happens in a couple of weeks).

The authors comment on the need for children to develop independence, and be given the opportunity to do so. Also, not constantly forcing your child ahead of their peers, instead allowing them to grow at their own pace. Remember: you can’t force a flower to open, it will bloom in its own time.

That being said (written?), I didn’t like the portion discussing controlled crying, simply because I don’t agree with it. I’m in no way an advocate of the Cry It Out method, and I am the first to encourage more gentle methods. One of the authors mentions that her sister-in-law (I believe) had her child sleeping through the night by 3 months by allowing him to Cry It Out (CIO). At the very least, children at this age still need nourishment throughout the night, and even proponents of the CIO method  say that it should not be used before 6 months. A new parent could believe that sleeping through the night should be the norm, when it is not, and may become frustrated, along with their child, when they simply aren’t biologically ready to do so.

Lastly, I wasn’t comfortable with the incredibly liberal take on sex (at a Children’s museum in Holland, they have a mock “adult store” section, will a full “display” for older children to peruse), but I know that the Dutch are incredibly liberal, so this didn’t shock me.

So, if you’re looking for a refreshing read on how the Dutch have raised “the happiest children in the world”, and you’re willing to take a step back from the rush of our North American society and critically assess how we might actually do things counter culturally to the benefit of our children, then I think you’d really enjoy this book.

Blessings,

Liz

Mothering Through Mommy Milk

Milk, milkies, boobie, booba, or in our house, Mommy Milk. I love breastfeeding. I’m a huge advocate for breastfeeding. I have been breastfeeding for the last 3 years and 10 months, continuously, and for the last 7 months, tandem feeding. It isn’t always easy, but I count myself blessed that I have been able to offer this to my daughters. I don’t take it for granted. While I was pregnant with my first, I read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (authored by La Leche League International), and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more on the topic.

It has made a two hour long flight home, after a busy long weekend, peaceful. It has brought comfort, and nourishment. It has provided antibodies, and greatly reduced illness severity and frequency. And, it has brought two sisters together.

Breastfeeding Sisters

There are MANY benefits of breastfeeding, and this captures a mere 11 of them:

Breastfeeding Benefits

And no, your milk doesn’t lose it’s nutritional value after 6 months, as I so often hear. In fact:

Breastfeeding Toddler

Did you know that the World Health Organization recommends nursing until at least 2 years, and then beyond? Health Canada echoes those sentiments. My intention was to try to nurse until 2 years. Well, lo and behold we both enjoy it so much that we’re still at it at 3 years and 10 months later. I would be lying if I said it was easy. There have been times when I’ve wanted to throw in the nursing pads and give up, but I’m glad I didn’t. At the end of a long day, or when she’s exhausted and nothing else will do, it is so comforting to know that I can be her Fortress of Solitude.

It’s easy, convenient and portable. Here I am at the Brantford Twin Valley Zoo, with Sweetpea (6 months) as she nursed and napped happily.

Breastfeeding

It’s a lollipop. Don’t worry.

I do appreciate that I can nurse on the go, but this monkey brought it to a whole new level. She was nursing while swinging around! Kudos to you, momma!

Breastfeeding Monkey

A nursing monkey momma

And, as I mentioned above, I am currently tandem nursing. This is when you are nourishing, and comforting, 2 children concurrently. You don’t have to feed them at the same time – that can be quite intense, as you can see on this lemur’s face:

Breastfeeding Lemur

And, naturally, I converted the obligatory “Tree of Life” nursing photo.

Breastfeeding Tree of Life

Breastmilk is always the right temperature. It is a living tissue, and is constantly changing. On a hot day, it contains more water, to help keep your little one hydrated. It registers your child’s saliva, and creates antibodies for them when they’re sick. It will naturally make them sleepy, especially at night. It is comforting. It changes its properties as your child ages, to provide what they need as they grow. You can’t overfeed a breastfed baby. Breastfed babies tend to be less picky when they start eating solids, because the taste of your milk changes based on what you eat, so they’re used to varying flavours. It has just the right make up for your baby. It’s not called “liquid gold” for nothing. Oh, and it’s free!

And let’s not forget about mom. It helps contract the uterus after birth. It can help with weight loss. You burn, on average, an additional 500 calories a day while breastfeeding. No wonder you’re so hungry! Your rates of breast cancer decrease significantly. It helps you bond with your baby. There is no prep time, especially in the middle of the night.

Again, these are merely a few of the many benefits of breastfeeding. I want to encourage those who feel like they’re along in their breastfeeding journey. We have decided to practice natural term breastfeeding, meaning that we will end when Little Miss (and eventually, Sweetpea) is ready. She’s “still” getting nourishment, and “still” draws great comfort from her Mommy Milk. And until that time, I will cherish our snuggles, because I think we can all agree that they do grow up quite fast.

Did you nurse your little(s)? What was your experience like?

Blessings!

Liz

Who Needs Toys, Anyway?

My mom (who is amazing, and helps us out whenever we need it) came over on Saturday so that I could hopefully get some cleaning done. Little Miss C (3.5) decided that our roof had a leak (likely inspired by the Berenstain Bear book Too Much Vacation). So, she took every plastic cup, bowl and Tupperwear container we had in the house, and placed them around our living room.

As you can see, we weren’t very far into our cleaning efforts 😀

My mom turned to me and said, “who needs toys?” And it’s true. We don’t have a lot of toys, comparatively speaking. And, because of this, her imagination is allowed to run wild! Next, she created a fort with our freshly washed sheets. Why can’t they use the dirty laundry, right?

And, for the hat trick, she played for half an hour in the dish water – we washed the dishes and the floor!

 

Children don’t need a lot of toys to be entertained. They can, and will, take every day items and see them in a new light, stretching their imaginations, and yours.

What everyday items do your children play with?

Chopped! (Kids Edition)

While at one of our co-ops a couple of weeks ago, Little Miss had the opportunity to try out some nylon knives by Curious Chef. I was so enamoured with the idea, that I bought a set for her. We tried it out the evening we got them, and they were a hit! They are really neat because they will cut through fruits and veggies, but won’t cut skin. Here she is prepping some of the green peppers for our fajitas:

She also chopped up mushrooms and my avocado. She was so eager to continue helping that she suggested making lemonade:

The beautiful part? She ate it. Woot! Because, you know, when children participate in food prep, they are more likely to give it a shot when it lands on the dinner table. (Yes, I said “more likely”. There are no guarantees in life.)

Just like that time we made pizza, and she added all the toppings herself. She never eats the whole thing, but she did this time!

How do you include your children in the kitchen?

A Hairy Situation

A few years ago, I was swimming at a public pool, long before I had children. I had just gotten out of the pool, along with all the other patrons, and I was in the change room. A gaggle of girls were also getting changed, around the age of 7 or 8 years old. I believe it was a birthday party.

In any case, after the girls were dressed, one of the girls started brushing her hair. No biggie, right? Well, apparently it was. Did you know that if you brush just the ends of your hair (you know, when you’re trying to get a knot out of your hair), that it can damage your hair and cause split ends? Well, I learned that little tidbit that day, and so did everyone else in the change room. This girl’s mom started yelling at her, explaining what she was doing wrong – in front of all her friends. She then proceeded to take the brush from her, and do it for her.

What caused me to remember this scene, nearly 10 years later? I was embarrassed and sad for her daughter. We try our very best to practice peaceful, respectful parenting. This one instance (maybe the mom was having an off day?) is one of the reasons why. I felt so bad that she was chastised in front of her friends, for such a silly, insignificant reason.

I want my daughters to have autonomy over their bodies. It’s our job to guide them. Sure, she could have calmly and quietly explained to her daughter why she should brush from the top down, but to demean her, then do it for her, stripped her of her autonomy, in that situation.

It is not uncommon for Little Miss to be walking around in a dress regardless of the weather. I encourage her to wear long sleeves and pants underneath in the winter. Today, a chilly, rainy day, she didn’t want to wear pants.  I asked her if she wanted to check to see how cold it was, and once she had done that, she changed her mind. But I let her choose.

Giving them autonomy over their bodies means that if someone tries to coerce them to do something they don’t want to, they will be more comfortable speaking up, and saying no. It also helps them understand why we dress a certain way for various climates, and helps them in their decision making process, allowing them to become more confident.

Blessings,

Liz

P.S. Here is a photo of Little Miss with her first French braids 🙂 They were, of course, at her request 😉

She Needs an iPad

This past week, Little Miss and I were working at the store – a common occurrence. She was sitting on the counter, playing with our debit machine. She takes one of our business cards, places it in the bottom, where you would put your chip card, and pretends to do a transaction. She has done this completely on her own, mimicking what she sees us do on a regular basis – she was playing.

Someone had come in, and commented that she was bored. “She needs an iPad,” she remarked. Hubby simply replied that she doesn’t, and we all went on our way.

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(Image taken from pixabay.com)

Little Miss doesn’t watch TV. In her two and a half years, we have sat down once as a family to watch a 1/2 hour of television. When someone is babysitting her, she gets a “treat” and can watch a program or two. It’s simply not something we have worked into our daily routine. We consciously chose to not expose her to TV and technology, and our intention was commit to that until she was 2.

I do not judge those who do use TV to get things done. I understand the draw! Or, perhaps you need a few minutes to yourself. I get that! However, if you’re wondering if a TV free toddler is possible, I just wanted to reassure you that it is 🙂

Do you have rules around technology in your household?