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.

 

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.

Giving up the ‘business’

I’m a problem solver. That’s what I do. Sort things out. It’s one of the things I do best.

Show me a ‘can’t’ and I’ll show you ‘can’. Show me an ‘I dont know’ and I swear I’ll show you an ‘I’ll find out’. Show me an ‘I’m frightened’ and I’ll show you a ‘hell, do it anyway!’

I started making natural skincare products to try and solve the ‘problem’ of my first son’s dry skin. I LOVE learning, so I studied and practised, and I made some lovely stuff for him.

And now, with baby number 2, both my kids benefit daily from their own little bespoke skincare range.

But the thing is, it was never meant to be a business. I guess that has been a byproduct really.

Its great that other people are using and enjoying the stuff. And hey, maybe someone will feel inspired by my journey, and be encouraged to do something to solve their own problem(s).

But I don’t enjoy business. No. Not at all. I enjoy creativity, and beauty, and peace and kindness. I enjoy people and new places, and new challenges, and learning. I enjoy overcoming difficulties, and finding the answer. I enjoy exploring natures gifts – the beautiful oils and herbs that are our natural healers.

But I don’t enjoy business. Not at all.

I enjoy the opportunities that it exposes me to. But I can’t stand the ‘selling’. The ‘transaction’. The value judgement that is made as a result.

I love my products. I love that I have preserved my childrens skin despite eczema, and chicken pox, and this rash, and that allergy. I’m proud of the work I have put into it. But I’m not a natural business woman.

And I’m wondering if and when it might be time to just stop…. After all, I solved the problem didn’t i?

Paying for success……

So an ‘award’ is simply a recognition of quality goods or services right?

Not necessarily so……

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Last year i won a couple of ‘awards’ for my natural baby skincare range.

I submitted products to a panel for review. It was free to enter, and it was such an amazing accolade – to receive praise/recognition for the products i had created.

Following this, i thought ‘i like this awards thing…..I’m going to see what else i could apply for’. So i started looking at the popular baby ranges of cosmetic products, and looking into the ‘awards’ that they displayed on their labels. ‘Great’ i thought ‘ I’ll contact all of these other organizations’ naively believing that it would be as simple as sending in samples of my products for further review.

So it turns out, that for most of the largely recognized magazines and branding organizations, there’s a fee to submit for ‘review’. And that fee is pretty hefty for a small sole trader like me. We’re talking around £100-150 per product.  That’s a fee just to be reviewed. No guarantee that your product(s) will be in line for any sort of ‘award’. No guarantee that you’ll ‘win’ anything.

And this got me thinking about the ‘ethics’ of it all. And that thinking made me feel quite sad.

Are these ‘awards’ really a recognition of a quality product?

I’m not so sure.

Maybe they’re more a reflection of the size of the business owners bank balance. 

Maybe we shouldn’t be so trusting, and so awed by these apparent ‘awards’ on the labels of our baby shampoo and nappies.

It seems that your little business can be really super duper successful, if you’ve got the cash to pay other folks to ‘big it up’. If i was born into a wealthy family, or had a high earning husband, my little brand could be out there competing with the big wigs of the baby industry. My products could be sitting alongside huge names on the shelves of Boots – if i could ‘afford’ it.

How depressing.

I recently featured in a book, and was followed up by a PR company – who enthusiastically told me that i could (and should) be showcased in some national magazines and newspapers – ‘getting the brand out there’ further. ‘Wonderful’ i thought ‘Lets get started. Oh and by the way, whats the fee for your help?’  £500 per day came the reply. I nearly choked on my herbal tea.

So the question is not – ‘ how good is your product?’ 

but ‘ Give me the cash and I’ll tell the world that your product is great’

I think I’ll opt out of that.

I’ll be submitting to The Green Parent magazine again this year. And hopefully to Juno magazine. Neither of which charge for review, and both of which are wonderful, ethical, natural parenting champions. Just the target audience i look for.

I don’t really fancy Boots anyway……..