Letting the kids look after themselves

Well….kind of.  I’m not exactly suggesting that my 5 year old nips out to the shops for milk, or that my 2 year old runs his own bath or anything. But most kids can probably do more than we give them credit for.

My (almost) 2 year old has started fetching his shoes and bringing them to me when he knows we’re off out. I’m chuffed to bits about this – not only because it demonstrates how well his understanding is evolving, but also because I know that I helped make that possible for him.

Here’s how.

We have a ‘shoe cupboard’ of sorts. Well, it’s more like a shoe ‘hole’ in the wall. It is literally STUFFED with shoes. The front is open and it looks really messy (because we aren’t shutting it away behind cupboard doors, and because they’re all thrown in haphazardly). The kids know that’s where the shoes go. They’re not ordered or neatly put together, so as long as they take their shoes off and throw them in there – the job is done.

This all makes it wonderfully easy for my toddler to see where his shoes are, get hold of them, and then return them when finished.

The shoes are nice and low down (reachable), and it is obvious where they belong.

He gets the sense of independence, and pride at being able to participate in getting ready, and I have one less (tiny) task to do myself. Win Win.

We have a similar strategy with the kids coats. We have an ‘adult’ row of pegs, and a ‘child’ row of pegs. The child row of pegs is low enough for both kids to reach, and it is glaringly obvious near the front door. ‘Hang your coat up, put your shoes away’. No excuses, because we have adapted the environment to facilitate independence.

So I’ve been thinking….. There’s 3 strategies that I can think of to support my children in gaining independence in the home:

LOWER – put the things that the kids need, at the right height for them to reach. For example, if I want my 5 year old to start laying the table each day, I need to keep placemats and cutlery somewhere that he can get hold of them himself. Without my help.

RAISE – we have quite a few foot stools dotted around the house. This way, either of the kids can grab one and move it so they can access the sink, or the kitchen sideboard, or the books on the shelf. Without my help.

MAKE IT OBVIOUS – the shoe ‘hole’, the ‘child’ row of pegs, pictures on drawers (for those who can’t yet read). We can help enable independence by keeping things available, accessible and visible for our kids.

 

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We wish you a Merry Sensory Overload

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I know it’s premature, and i know that i’ll be really sick of it by Christmas day, but our tree went up this weekend. And now i need to brace myself for 4 weeks of overtired, over excited, slightly delirious kids.

I’m easily over stimulated at the best of times – i hate noise, bright lights, scratchy textures – but Christmas is a whole other level of sensory overload.

Here’s some tips for avoiding sensory overload at home during this excitable festive period:

  • Declutter. I know, i know, how is that possible at this time of year? Cards, decorations, kids off school. I’m trying not to get too attached to ‘stuff’, ditching post once its been read, putting toys away before bed etc etc.
  • Minimise screen time. This time of year is brilliant for TV/Movies generally, but i try to only switch the box on when theres something i/we want to watch – instead of leaving it on all the time as background noise. (I hate that!!!)
  • Pay attention to lighting (not too bright! And maybe forego the ‘flashing’ option on the tree lights…), noise volume, and heat. A ‘hot’ house can make for ‘hot’ tempers.
  • Try to achieve a balance of activities through the day – activity, followed by rest time, followed by refuelling etc.
  • Set limits for duration of activities – screen time, social time, phone calls, interactions, exposure to crowds and noise. How long can you/your kids tolerate these before they begin to irritate? Make sure to stop them before that stage is reached.
  • Rest. Sleep in (I wish!), lounge on the sofa, plan activities for the afternoon. This time of year, more than ever, its important to make sure you/your kids get enough rest.

Ok. Thats it. I’ll try my best to do all of this (because i haven’t achieved it any year before!).

Here goes December – i’m coming in.

See you on the other side!

 

 

5 Reasons kids should be walking to school

Unfortunately my son’s (our chosen) school is too far away for us to walk there.

I’ve given us a week to get accustomed to the early morning routine, and now, i plan to drive some of the way and make us walk the rest (perhaps a mile or so). And here’s why:

  1. Daylight. Do i really need to explain why this is a good thing? Exposing our kids to daylight helps us synchronise important biorhythms, it is critical for promoting alertness, it raises our mood, and helps us to produce vitamin D.
  2. Exercise. When i was a kid, we didn’t need to ‘exercise’. Playing was exercise, because playing was not sitting, or being indoors, it was running and riding bikes and building camps. However, sometimes today’s kids need a little extra help to get the right amount of exercise, and its important because it helps maintain the right body weight, builds strong muscles and bones and improves the quantity and quality of sleep we achieve.
  3. Air. Ok i accept that depending upon where you live, your child may or may not be able to gulp lung fulls of ‘fresh air’, but regardless, they need ventilation. And arguably, the quality of indoor air can be far worse than the quality of outdoor air, even if you live in the city. Imagine all of those bugs coming out of snotty little noses and circulating around the classroom. Lovely.
  4. Sensory (proprioceptive) input. Kids need heavy work. I don’t mean sewing in a clothing factory, or working a production line. I mean, pushing, pulling, lifting, moving. Heavy resistance and input to the muscles and joints is essential for sensory processing and has a calming effect on the nervous system. Walking provides your child with calming sensory input.
  5. Time. Walking to school gives you and your child precious ‘now’ time to talk, share and reconnect. Or complain and drag heels….as the case may be!

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Letting the kids talk to strangers

I took my boys to the beach yesterday with our big gangly dog. Nothing strange there. We do this every day.

Anyway, I digress. I took my boys to the beach yesterday, and whilst we were there a man arrived with a bucket, wearing waders and proceeded to wander out into the shallows.

It was a very low tide. Lower than I’ve seen it for a long time, and there were small pools exposed, and rocks covered in green slime, and shells and the spaghetti-like cases left by sand worms. And the man stopped by one of these pools, kneeled on the wet sand and began dipping his hands into the water and under the rocks.

It, obviously, caught our attention, and I found myself thinking that here was another great opportunity to let my eldest son ( for the youngest can’t speak yet…) practice talking with a stranger.

Talking with a stranger!!!!! Yes, you read that correctly.

See, the thing is, I know we’re all supposed to be frightened of talking to strangers. And we’re supposed to teach our kids that stranger = danger. But I just get can’t to grips with that.

We live in the north east of England. Up here the people are (for the best part) notoriously friendly.  We chat on the bus, in the street, on the doorstep. We don’t think anything of striking up conversation with folks we might stand next to in the supermarket aisle, or people smiling at us at the bus stop. And smiling…..that’s great shit isn’t it? Costs nothing and makes your day.

I’ve taught my eldest to smile at folks. I’ve also taught him to say hello if someone sits next to him. To say ‘excuse me’ to the shop assistant if he wants something. He’s only 4 (nearly 5) but I’ve encouraged him to approach the lady behind the counter, to speak to the bus driver, to say ‘good morning’ to fellow dog walkers.

And I encouraged him to approach the man in the waders, and ask him what he was doing. I knew what he was doing. But I saw this as another chance for my son to practice politely approaching someone. And of course, to learn something new.

The man responded with kindness. Maybe it’s because we live in the north. But he took the time to answer my son. They both smiled. My son came skipping back to me, buoyant with the new information he had. Excited that he had learnt something new. And confident that he could approach someone he didn’t know.

I had watched from a distance. I knew he was ‘safe’. And I was glowing with pride to overhear his beautiful little voice start “excuse me….”.

How can we teach our kids independence, if we are to control who they speak to? And how they speak to them?

There are so many skills I am trying to teach my kids. Surely, one of the most important is how we integrate into our society, how we make friends, how we talk to others.

I’m not prepared to teach my children to be afraid of strangers.

Theft

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Please don’t steal from me. I have worked so very very hard.

This was my studio.

I moved into it in May 2011.

My first son was 7 months old, and there was barely a square inch of his skin that didn’t have eczema.

I devoted (almost) every free moment to trying to help him.

I thought about little else.

It took me 12 months to perfect just that tiny bar of baby soap.

12 months.

I moved out of my little studio in November 2013, pregnant with baby number two. I spent many an hour, in those 2.5 years freezing my ass off in that studio. FREEZING. Developing recipes, creating products, formulating the wonderful butters and oil blends that my beautiful sons have now benefitted from.

I have absolutely and utterly poured my heart and soul into my little business.  It has seen me through some of my darkest times. I have earned awards. Featured in books. Become a writer for a magazine. I have worked so bloody hard.

Please don’t steal this from me. You know who you are.

Notes to a first time Mother – part one

So now that I’m well under way with Motherhood second time around, I’ve got a few insights into the first experience……Things I’ve done differently this time around……Things i wish i’d known the first time.

1. Being pregnant SUCKS. Well, mostly anyway.

009Forced smile….pretending this is such fun…

Yes you’re growing a human being and yes that’s totally amazing etc etc……but you feel like crap. Most. Of. The time.

2. Labour is fine. Stop worrying about it. Baby has got to come out at some point. And no you’re not gonna die (hopefully…).

003He came out!

3. Baby needs to sleep. All. Of. The time. Don’t underestimate this. Let him, or help him to, sleep. A Lot. Or life will be very stressful for you both.

025Over tired = lots of crying = wheres the wine??

4. You need to sleep. All. Of. The time. But you wont be able to. Now where’s the justice in that?!

5. You will buy loads of STUFF for baby. Clothes (they’ll all get crapped on). Nursery decor (he’ll never sleep in there anyway). A cot (a COT!!!! What was i thinking???). Toys…. Don’t waste your money. He doesn’t need any of it really.

6. You will try to do too much. Stop it and sit down.

7. Your baby will be beautifully groomed and sweet smelling. You will look like crap. FACT.

8. Your house will look as if it has been ransacked. You will adjust your hygiene standards to accommodate this. Oh and poo will get everywhere….

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Poo – getting everywhere

9. 9pm will be a late night.

10. 3am will be party time – but not as you knew it.

11. But then this will happen:

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and everything will be more than OK.

 

Working from home

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I really don’t know how much longer I can cope with working from home.

By the time I’ve cleared myself a space, amongst the toys, and the bills, and the un-read newspapers, hung out the washing, made the beds and put away the dishes, there’s barely time to sit down and think through where to start.

My husband is incredibly kind and happily takes off with the kids for the day so that I can get cracking. But I really struggle to focus, when I’m sat amongst books, toys and teeny tiny underpants.

And it doesn’t help that there’s this staring at me too

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I’m guessing I might need to start hoping and praying that some bargain studio space comes my way……and soon!

Stretch marks

So I am nearing 20 weeks pregnant with my second baby, and my mind is turning to the dreaded stretch mark…….

I got away without gaining any in my first pregnancy – but I was religious about greasing myself morning and night. After trying some of the ‘high street’ oils and butters, I finally settled on using just pure coconut oil. And it worked really well. And saved me a fortune.

But the downside was the heaviness of the oil.

Coconut oil is a lovely, highly moisturizing, nourishing oil, but it is also a very fatty oil. As such, it sits on the skin for some time, taking quite a while to absorb fully. Last pregnancy, I spent many an hour at home naked, and glistening, greased up like a chip. Unable to sit down, or dress, or touch anything.

This pregnancy I already have a 3 year old to entertain, a dog to walk and a business to run. I don’t have time to swan about naked, waiting for my oil to soak in.

So I am developing a new tummy oil blend. MY tummy oil blend.

It will certainly have coconut oil in it (I love it), but will be combined with a number of ‘lighter’, ‘shorter’,  more easily absorbed oils – for those busy ladies amongst us.

And besides, I’m pregnant during Autumn and Winter this time…….nudity isn’t quite so appealing….

Mothers need a bit of love

Its my son’s 3rd birthday this week – and i’d say i’ve learnt such a lot since he came into this world.

ImageMy boy at around 1 month old

 

The learning curve has been immense. I’ve learnt how to look after a baby and watch him grow into a child. I’ve learnt how much child-rearing can and does affect your relationships with others. I’ve learnt the true meaning of unconditional selfless love. And ive learnt that i need to work hard to be the best mother and person i can be – that patience, and understanding, and self sacrifice dont neccessarily come easily or naturally.

Its taken me until now to realise that being ‘the best mother and person i can be’ requires me to care for and nurture myself with as much (almost?) concern and passion as i do my son. I need to optimise my own wellbeing, inorder to ensure that of my boy.

And so i am creating and launching a mum and mum-to-be (because by the way, i am expecting number 2!) range of beautiful natural skincare products. Remember, what we put on our skin, also goes in (look up ‘dermal absorption’ for more info on this).

With any luck, this range should be available from early December, and will include:

A facial serum

A skin repairing body oil (to tackle stretch marks and scars)

A massage oil blend

A small range of traditionally handcrafted soaps

A relaxing balm

A foot butter and a hand/nail butter

Hooray for us dedicated, hard working ladies – time to start giving ourselves some of that love and care. I cant wait to share it all with you, and to start spreading the joy.