A fresh look at play

This post is a continuation of our musings and reflections on play. Last time we talked about the importance of uninterrupted play for the age of 0-3 months, and about when and how play happens. The information in that article we believe to be of importance for all age groups. But there are things that change, things that shift and develop as the babies grow. Have a look at our previous post to see what we mean by play in this very early age, and continue on reading to see what play can look like in infants 3-6 months old.

“Play is the highest form of research” (Albert Einstein).

If we understand play not as the action itself, but an approach to action, and if we consider it to be research, the important think to ask ourselves at any given moment is this: What is my child researching at the moment?

To understand this we need to observe. There is no other way to understand the researcher at work, but to observe his actions, try and see his thought process, and not let ourselves interrupt. ‘A journey of observation must leave as much as possible to chance’ (Tahir Shah). To be able to really observe we should put our expectations aside, and rather than guessing what is going on, we should simply let the things unfold in front of our eyes.

Try not to anticipate, expect, suggest. It’s hard. It’s hard to just look, without expectation or judgment. But it is also incredibly rewarding for us as parents to know that we, too, can grow and learn in this experience – we can learn to really look. And by learning to look at the child, by allowing ourselves to be challenged, we too can again experience what our child is experiencing every day: the challenge of discovering and learning something new. As our child is learning new skills, we are learning the skill of observation. And we can maybe begin to understand that the only way we can truly learn this new skill is by trial and error, by allowing ourselves to fail and allowing ourselves to sometimes take a step back into our comfort zone without anybody pushing us to keep going, by learning about our limits, and by learning how to push those limits by ourselves. The wonderful thing about this learning experience is that the child is a patient teacher.

One trick to the way of observing a child we are talking about here this is admitting to ourselves that more often than not we don’t know what he is working on (http://www.janetlansbury.com/2012/07/the-infant-need-experts-dont-talk-about/), so it might be futile (or even sometimes disturbing) to offer our help or a solution. Is he reaching for that toy or is he stretching his arm? Is she trying to turn to her belly, or is she practicing rocking from back to side? Does he want to sit up, or is he working on the balance? Since there is no way we can know this, rather than help our child practicing whatever he is working on right now, let’s focus on practicing our own skill of sensitive observation.

Coming back to play and research the 3-6 month old children are busy with, some things we might expect are these:

Play as…

… movement

“Nothing is more revealing than movement” (Martha Graham)

The 3-6 month-olds are not mobile yet in that they do not crawl or walk (though whoever thinks that babies on their backs are immobile should look carefully). A lot of smaller movement happens around this age: turning from back to tummy (and sometime later, turning from tummy to back), working on the side-lying position, balancing on the side with the use of arms and legs.  You will see a lot of stretching and trying to understand how to change positions, and how to get back to the original position.

The amazing thing you will notice is that it is movement itself that is the motivation, not getting to a certain goal or reaching for something. This is the development of intrinsic, self-directed motivation that, if not interrupted, will serve your child for life. Playing with small, and later also bigger movements, is the challenge, this is the game for babies this age. Allowing the child to move freely helps him develop the awareness of his body, its position in space, but also at the same time allows him to regulate his own strength – he knows best when to stop, when to rest, when it’s been enough. Be sensitive to these signs, but don’t anticipate or guess them in advance. Observe your child’s “dialogue with gravity” (Anna Tardos) in action.

… experiment and discovery

“It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self”  (D.W. Winnicott)

If we allow the child to freely experiment, we will see the amazing discoveries taking place all the time. This is the time, when the infant slowly begins to discover his hands. Mobiles hanging above his crib, or too many toys places around him might distract him from this important step in development. For now there is no need for too many objects – the body needs to be discovered first, before it can be used to play with toys. This is the time when babies get familiar with their bodies, they discover their arms and legs and experiment with what can be done with those.

You may see first the uncertain wave of the fist in front of their face, and the moment when the fist is in front of their eyes. ‘What is this?’ he seems to be saying. Soon after comes the discovery, that the arms are his and that he can influence how they move – this is very powerful and will occupy him for a while. Only after that is no longer a novelty will he engage more with the objects around. Surely, you need to know yourself first before you can get to know the things outside you 

… learning

So what does all of this have to do with play? We believe, following Teacher Tom, that play is life. That play, learning, discovery – can all be synonyms if we choose to see them that way. But if we want to see our children playing, we need to let them develop in their play, and let them develop the skills that will later help them play, work, live and create. Therefore, once we begin to understand that for our smallest children play is everything, we will be more likely to see it when it happens. Because surely, all parents want their child to play happily…

In these first months of playing with movement the child is beginning not only to learn how to move, but also learn how to learn. With mastering of each new movement he begins to learn how things can be mastered. This process has nothing to do with getting to certain milestones, but rather mastering each small movement to perfection to be able to later use it for other purposes. Like learning alphabet to be able to learn how to read, in a similar way the child is learning about balance (losing and gaining it), gravity, positions of his own body and how to effectively use the body to support him – all those seemingly small steps will later help him learn how to crawl, sit, walk, run and dance.

The more we let him experiment with his own learning, without guessing the next move and helping him get to it faster, the more confident he will be in his dance. But it’s not just that. Failing, falling, trying, playing with loss of balance and gaining it back, playing with his hands and feet to later understand they can be used for holding, catching, walking – all of these are pieces of a puzzle. All of this play he is doing now, will later prepare him for all of the learning that needs to be done along the way. In playing with movement he is learning about how to tackle a challenge, how to deal with failure, how to be proud of his own success. We will see all of this on his face if we choose to quietly observe, giving only as much support as necessary, rather than guiding him through the steps only to make his success ours.

Playing, working, experimenting, learning, discovering… you can see your child do all of this (and more) if you allow yourself to observe without interrupting. Try and let us know your thoughts. How is your baby playing? What is he working on in his play? What is she trying to discover?

We LOVE to hear your thoughts!

Nadine & Anna

How to make PLAY happen

Play is movement. Play is self-regulation, learning. Play is… life. In our last post we talked about looking at play with fresh eyes and figuring out the millions of things we put in one bag, and then call it ‘PLAY’. But for babies 3-6months, as much as play is a natural state of being, there is a need to set up conditions for it to happen. How can we help our babies play freely, and help ourselves enjoy it? Here is what we have learnt so far.

How can we facilitate this play?

A lot happens at this age (wow, this seems to be true for just about every age group once we start thinking about it), and for the child to play he needs certain conditions. Good news is – it’s not that difficult, it does not require specialized equipment, and anybody can do it. So, what do babies need to be able to play freely?

  • Emotional security
  • Care
  • Quiet, peaceful environment where they can play, learn & discover

Since you could probably write a book on the tons of aspects of each of these points, let’s take one step at a time. Today, we will focus on the environment, and specifically – the playpens.

Playpens

Only pictures show me that when I was little I was playing in a little playpen. I obviously can’t remember. What I can remember though is visiting friends of my parents who had a baby when I was about 6 or 7 years old. They had a wooden playpen, rectangular and just the right size for a baby that can’t move around too much yet. I always wanted to climb in it with the baby. In fact – I did. Because I liked the cosyness of it. I liked being away from the adults who bored me. I enjoyed just being in there, watching this little baby. In this small comfortable world of his. (Nadine)

Nowadays most parents think of playpens as of little prisons. Many refuse to buy them because they don’t want to place their little baby behind gates. And we say – it’s a matter of perspective.

A child does not know what a prison is. A child has no negative connotation of the bars around him with being locked. More importantly – if you use the playpen from early on it will become your child’s safe space. So he won’t necessarily feel “locked away“. As in Nadine’s case – he might actually feel safe and secure. Comfortable.

Try and think about it. You have those gates – preferably a few flexible ones to form a safe area that fits into your flat furnishings. Your baby has just been fed and changed. You have given him all your attention and had a wonderful time together. Now you need a coffee, maybe a snack or just a moment for yourself. So you put your baby into this safe play area that has a few toys in it. There is a chair nearby where you can sit down and relax. While your baby explores… well – his own body? The world around?

If something bothers him – you are there. You are not out of reach, not ignoring him. But you don’t have to constantly keep your eyes fixed on him – he is safe, his needs have been met. And he knows that. Because that’s the way it has been for a while now.

How does that sound?

  • But why is a blanket on the floor not enough?

Take a moment and imagine this: You are lying on a mattress in the middle of a football stadium. You can barely make out the walls, everything seems endless. Could you feel safe? Could you focus on a book or any task without having the feeling of looking around, making sure everything is ok? It may sound a bit excessive, but considering the fact that distances are still a bit vague for little children, you might imagine what it feels like to lie in a room with no close borders around.

  • When should I start using a playpen?

In the beginning the baby is usually close to you or in his cot or pram. But as soon as he starts moving around – may it just be rolling onto his side – he needs space to freely do that. The sofa or bed become dangerous because you never know, when he will roll over (and over) fort he first time. With flexible playpens you can build a small one for a start. Then extend it with the baby’s gross motor development.

  • How long should I use the playpen?

When your child starts moving forward you may either extend the playpen even more or take it away. The latest moment to put it aside is when your baby starts walking. This is the time when the whole flat should become safe and secure because stopping your child from entering areas he physically could reach will just be an unnecessary core of frustration. For all of you.

We love to hear your thoughts!

Anna & Nadine

The Fuss about Feeding

This post is a continuation of our thoughts and reflections on the day-to-day respectful parenting practices. We started with diapering, and now we move on to feeding. We will only focus on infant feeding here, and will try to write about feeding older children later on. Before we go on, there are some things we need to say.

We have nothing to say about the choices you make with regards to breast or bottle. Or both. We have made our decisions, you have made yours. We respect that. There have recently (again) been a flurry of various posts and articles on one or the other side of the fence. We believe you have chosen, as we did, the best possible option for your family. If you are still thinking about it, the only advice we have is this: make an informed choice about the feeding option that you think will be best for the whole family. Yes, your baby is number one, but you are no less important. Look for information and support you need. If for some reason your choice is not working out, be open to other possibilities. Seek support, you deserve it and might need it. Look for the community that will value your choice and honour it, ignore the one that will judge it. Yes, we are aware of the issues that have been raised with regards to breastmilk and infant immune system. But one option that seems to be best, might not be best in the long run and for everybody. Basically, we believe that feeding your baby goes well beyond the whole fuss about bottles and breasts. That it is not about what you use to feed your baby, but about how you do it.

We believe there are two key issues that are involved in feeding an infant: nourishment and connection. And, putting breasts and bottles aside, we will focus on connection and relationship with your baby, which seem to be left out of a number of feeding arguments and debates (luckily, not all ). Because essentially, we believe that these two things are more important than any debate over anything regarding feeding. Also, they can be provided and enjoyed by any family member, anytime. Isn’t that a powerful thought?

As you may have guessed, we will not have much to say about nourishment. This issue needs to be discussed with your doctor, if you have any concerns. Instead, we will focus on the connection you can create during those intimate moments when you feed your infant, and the respectful relationship you can build in those moments.

Throughout this post we will talk about ‘feeding’ meaning breast or bottle, and ‘parent’ meaning anyone who is feeding the baby.

There is one thing about feeding, which makes it similar to diapering – you have to be there. Both of you. There is no other way. Which is why, in our opinion, it might be worth making it meaningful for both of you. Feeding gives us an opportunity to create a time for bonding, a time for feeding your infant with food but also with your attention. It will make feeding times more pleasant, and will make it easier for your baby to play on his own afterwards (and for you to have a moment of rest, or to do those things you need or want to do – in our opinion much more efficient than doing them while feeding). But it goes both ways – we, parents, want that quality time with our kids too. We also want their attention. And feeding is the time that we can all experience it. Maybe, then, apart from filling our babies with our attention, attentive feeding times can also fill us with their attention, thus letting us leave them to play afterwards…

Comfort – for both of you

You will feed your baby often. Sometimes the feeding will be long, for some babies it takes more time, some babies feed more during the night. If, like us, you believe that feeding is a great opportunity to spend quality time with your baby, it will work best if you can be as comfortable as possible. We have all probably done the weirdly-hunched-over feedings, or the barely-even-sitting feedings. If you are not comfortable, chances are the only connection you will be making is with your spine, or your arm.

There are lots of ways you can feed, lots of positions you can try out. We have found trying an important part of this journey – tell your baby you were not too comfortable last time, and you would like to sit with your feet up today. It also lets your baby know that while satisfying his hunger is your priority at that moment, it is also important that you do it with respect for both of you. One minute to find a comfortable position or a pillow will not make that much of a difference for him, but it might for you. Communicate and explain, and then sit down and enjoy 

If you are comfortable and relaxed, he will be as well. It will also make it much easier to find pleasure in those wonderful moments.

One thing that is important in finding a position for your baby to feed, is to always make sure he has an option of letting you know he’s had enough.

Being present and attentive

Nowadays we tend to use every spare minute to interact with the world. We‘ve got laptops, tablets and mobile phones that let us fill every moment that could possibly filled with boredom. I dare to say that most of us find it very difficult to just sit down and relax. Not doing anything. Not watching anything. An evening with no TV, no internet, no telephone. Can you imagine this?

Well. Nature is pretty awesome. It gives us the chance to get back to those precious moments. It gives us a baby that needs to be fed. Often. Sometimes for long periods of time. And while feeding this baby we can practice the not doing anything bit. Why?

Maybe because it is healthy to relax all your senses. To not think. Not interact. Maybe because motherhood is an incredibly busy time, and moments of peace are precious. But maybe – and you already guessed that this might be our reason behind – because your child will feel the difference. He will feel you are there. Just with him. In deepest connection. You‘re feeding not just his stomach but also his soul. Doesn‘t this sound wonderful? It’s a different way of staying connected (the older meaning of the word ), without the use of any connecting devices. It’s just about the two of you.

Be fully there

We’ve all been there when someone is serving us in the shop, selling us something, helping us fill in the documents, or helping us find the right person to talk to in the office, while all the while talking on the phone. Not a pleasant feeling, and often leaves us feeling as if we were a nuisance. Worse still – have you ever been out for dinner with someone and they constantly kept checking their phone? You know how it feels… Mealtimes together are great, not only because the food tastes nice. Sure, there will be times when you need to do something. To make a call. To answer an e-mail. But if you delay doing it until after the feeding, your baby will feel he got your full, undivided attention, and will be more likely to let you do your thing while he plays alone for those few minutes.

How many parents love to watch their sleeping baby? Adore it. Love it to bits. Well great news: you can do this while he is awake. While he can feel you adoring and loving him. And once he‘s asleep – you can watch TV, check on the internet. Or simply close your eyes too.

It does sound simple and we agree it isn‘t always that easy. But it’s worth a try. And you will see how deeply addicted you can get to it. So while feeding your baby try unitasking  And leave the multitasking abilities for other occasions, when you need them more.

Creating a peaceful moment of connection

If you are in a loud or crowded place, move away a bit if you can. Turn your back to the crowds, and your face to your baby. If you’re having dinner with your friends, this time fully focussed on your baby might make a world of difference for everyone – your baby will be satisfied, and filled with your attention, you will be able to turn back to your friends and give them the attention they need.

Will my newborn really care if I read messages on my phone while he is nursing with his eyes closed? We say yes. Because when will you see if he‘s opening his eyes for a moment? And while they might not see that far they can feel so much more. Remember how you can feel a person staring at your back. Why should newborns not be able to feel that way? And even if the baby is tired and half asleep and does not realize what you are doing – this is a great chance to practise. Because when they get older, they will ask for your attention. During mealtimes, during play. They don‘t always want you to interact with them – but they want you to be there and observe. And it does not have to mean you are glued eyeball to eyeball all the time while you’re feeding – but respect their need for connection, as well as yours.

Undivided attention is one great part of the RIE principles / Pikler approach. It means to be with your child 100% while feeding, changing or bathing him. During those intimate and very precious moments. It gives you the time to fill up emotionally as well – let’s be honest, not only babies need our attention, we need theirs too. And it also gives us a chance to fill our babies’ attention needs, so that for those times when we need to do something else, like make a call, answer an e-mail or take a shower ) we can, because they know we will be with them again for the next feeding session.

Feeding a baby is a basic need you are responding to. It is part of the bonding process. And as we said before – here you have the chance to feed more needs than the obvious one.

What your baby will learn:

That he is important and that his health is important to you
That mealtimes are pleasant and are not only about eating, but a great way to spend some time with each other (probably much appreciated later on in life as well!)
That it is important to pay attention to the other person when engaged in a task together
Respect for the body: his own – when you don’t ask him to eat more than he needs or wants, and that of other people – when you explain that it is important for you to be sitting comfortably
Lots and lots of language!

Further readings on this:
http://piklerexperience.blogspot.co.at/2012/02/breastfeeding-with-love-and-respect.html (Mama Nadine)
http://www.janetlansbury.com/2010/04/beyond-bottles-and-breasts-the-key-to-whole-baby-nourishment/ (Janet Lansbury)
the picture above was kindly provided by: http://lindsaymitchell.blogspot.co.nz – thank you !

Starting the toy revolution

Our views of the play area and things infants can play with have been evolving quite a lot over the past two years. Please read this with an open mind – these are our thoughts, conclusions we have come to, and general musings on the subjects. We are going to talk about the most popular baby things, and suggest that maybe we (and our babies) don’t really need them all. Maybe, actually, they don’t need any of it. Just a possibility…

A lot of these things are so engraved in our image of childhood, we no longer question whether we need them, wonder what they actually really do to our baby’s development, or whether they are appropriate for a given stage of development. Our wallets are taking a hit as well, which, for new parents, is really really not necessary.

It seems much easier to imagine simple play objects for older babies and toddlers – there is mud, sticks, boxes, all the fun stuff. But for infants it is hard to think of something simple, and toy makers pour their products through our mailboxes and windows. We don’t want to deprive our babies of the necessary experiences, when all we hear is how crucial these first months are, and how important it is to provide the ‘right’ kinds of toys and environment.

And if you do end up questioning how necessary these toys and all the equipment really is, you may end up as ‘the weird parent’, or ‘oh, you’re one of those’. So, for all of you who do not fear being ‘one of those’ – we salute you. For those, who do – we understand you!  And for those who need some encouragement in thinking critically about the eternal truths of marketing gods – we intend to provide some food for thought. Here goes.

So, what are these things ‘everyone’ takes for granted? Let’s have a look.

Baby mobile

We had the baby mobile from day one, practically. It was hanging above Antek’s cot like a giant insect, a very cute one, given to us by thoughtful friends. Everyone had one. Seriously. How many people with babies do you know? How many of them don’t have a baby mobile? It didn’t even really cross our minds not to get one – amazing, isn’t it? The second we take something for granted we don’t even question it anymore. It doesn’t occur to us that we could question the status quo. Hmm…

We started reading more into Pikler & RIE philosophies, and came across a post by Janet Lansbury (http://www.janetlansbury.com/2009/10/blue-sky-thinking/) where she recalls Magda Gerber’s words: ‘Take the mobile off the bed, take care of their needs and leave them alone’. Take the mobile off the bed? I started wondering. The same evening a friend came over, looked at the baby mobile and commented: “Man, it’s like a giant TV above your bed. One you can never switch off. Cool!” Ouch. Actually, I remember thinking the same thing. In the before-baby world, that is. Back when we questioned things a bit more. Maybe because we had more sleep…That evening our baby mobile found a safe home under our bed. Over the next couple of days the same fate was met by a number of different things. The room was decluttered. So was Antek’s line of vision. Suddenly, he started wriggling and moving much more, started exploring his limbs, trying out new moves. It was as though the baby mobile immobilized our baby a little bit. (Anna)

Baby mobiles are cute, they can be a lovely ornament in the room, and they keep your baby entertained. All the time. So…

Why not?

Baby mobile keeps your baby entertained all their waking hours – with the sounds, the movement, the colours and shapes. But look around the room – your baby has just arrived here from nine months in the darkness, surrounded by constant muttered sounds. Does he need more stimulation than he is already getting? The day and night, the light and darkness, the sounds around, voices of people that care for him, the fly that has just passed above his head, the sound of the kettle, the breeze, the feeling of his own body, the feelings of hunger, being wet, pain… With this much stimulation already in the air, the quiet time when your baby is not stimulated even more allows him to absorb the already complicated world around.
With the mobile above the baby’s head, your baby has no choice but to look at it. Very young infants cannot yet turn their heads. Even if the stimulation gets too much, they cannot choose to look away.
Introducing 24/7 entertainment can tire us (parents) out in the long run – once we accustom the baby to being entertained all day long, it will be very hard to change that habit. On the other hand, if we provide our babies with some time and space to explore on their own and play according to their own ideas, we are preparing a rich ground for future independent and creative explorers. “…[E]ntertaining kinds of toys (such as mobiles or, later on, wind-up toys or battery-operated items) cause a passive child to watch an active toy. This trains the child to expect to be amused and entertained and sets the scene for later TV watching” (Magda Gerber, ‘Dear Parent: Caring for infants with respect’)
Babies’ attention works differently than ours. Alison Gopnik’s (among others) research has shown, that they do not focus on one thing and disregard everything else around them like we often do. Therefore when they are looking at the moving, revolving, musical baby mobile, they are also, at the same time, taking in everything else that is going on in the room. It can be a lot to take (http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/gopnik09/gopnik09_index.html).

If you bought, got or made a lovely baby mobile and really want it in the room – place it slightly further away, not directly above your baby’s head. So that, once he is capable of doing that, he can turn his head or body and choose to look at it, or not. So that he is not forced to look at it the second he wakes up. You can choose when to enjoy looking at it (or TV ) – why not give your baby the same possibility?

All-in-one toys

The toy industry is actually quite smart. They are nice enough to make things easier for parents. So it seems. Because instead of buying one toy that is bright, one that rattles or plays music and one for the baby to chew on when teething you can by them all in one! But by now you can probably imagine what our thoughts are on that. Don’t buy them 

These toys might make our life easier in the short run – seeing your mesmerised baby’s eyes staring at the blinking, rattling, flashing wind-up rabbit might let you sneak out to the toilet and lets you have a bit of a well-deserved breather. But if, like us, you want to be able to have that moment of calm also in the future, simple toys might be a better solution. So…

Why not?

Children are easily overstimulated. They discover the world step by step. In their own time. They want to understand what is what, what does what and what results do their actions have (don’t we all)? They can only learn and understand these things when they have a chance to discover toys or daily things one after another. And only when they are as simple as can be. Something that rings, blinks and shines in 3 colours at once is far too much to take.
Too much excitement might mean less sleep. When babies are overstimulated, they might have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep. Calmer toys and environment make for a better nights’ sleep – for all of us.
Toys that are easy to understand allow for curiosity to develop. The ‘busy’, complicated toys, that are not easily understood by babies, can quickly trump their inner need to discover and explore. After all, what is the use of a toy that does all the playing by itself?

If you want something that makes sounds get a rattle that is easy to understand – from your baby’s perspective. Something the child can follow, and see where the sound is coming from. Maybe a wooden stick with (a) ring(s) around it? That way the child can see what is making the noise (rather than with those rattles that have some sort of material inside which only we – adults – understand as the “soundmaker”). So again – same as with the mobile – the child chooses when to play with something that jingles or rings. He understands what makes the sound (and how), and he can make it happen when he wants to. This also sets him up for being able to understand the world in the future – rather than the idea that the things around are mysterious, and there is no way of understanding the workings of the world surrounding him, providing simple objects to play with at the same time provides your child with something akin to what Gever Tulley of Tinkering School describes as knowability. A sense that it is possible to understand things around you and know how they work.

So, if, like us, you are keen to let your baby have simple play objects, get a simple wooden ring, a plain one, if you can find it. And see what your baby does with it. Babies are just starting to grab things. This action itself is their interest, their intention. It is their play. Watch the exploration and the possibilities of that simple thing. And pay attention to the time he enjoys playing with it – because of their simplicity, toys like that don’t go out of style. Sometimes they are put aside, but soon enough there will be new uses for them, as your baby develops new skills and abilities. Our sons still enjoy playing with toys from their early days, though, of course, in a very different way.

Now, we are not asking you to deprive your child of any experiences, on the contrary! But if you’re still unsure about toys (or play objects) that might be ‘too simple’ or ‘boring’ imagine every time you flip the page in a book it makes a loud noise. How long would you continue reading that book?

Baby gym

Also known as activity centres. Don’t these names make you smile? Look at your baby. Observe him for just a minute. Now lie down next to him and imitate EVERY movement he is doing. At the same speed. With the same intensity. And now think again about the purchase of a baby gym or activity centre. Does your baby really need a work out?

Why not?

As with a mobile those activity centres create rather passive babies. Surrounded by toys that they can barely grab but not take, not taste, not smell they will become frustrated and again possibly rather passive TV watchers.
Maria Montessori had already discovered the importance of “learning through our five senses, and particularly through the relationship between hand and the brain. In recognition of the building of the intelligence through this feedback loop of information from the hand to the brain and back again, Montessori stated that nothing should be given to the brain that is not first given to the hand.” (“Montessori from the Start”, page 60)

The challenge of simplicity

We are coming from a bit of a different view. We have been reading and thinking about the Pikler/RIE approach so much before Leander was born, that we didn’t place any toys near him at all in the beginning. It was difficult though. I kept wondering if that way I could be missing the moment for him to have those toys? That he would miss out? If everyone has it – is it really that bad? Should we not have it too? (Nadine)

Where do these thoughts come from? What do they say about us? In a time we question everything experts tell us and join every discussion on every major topic concerning our baby like breastfeeding, bottle feeding, vaccinations, co-sleeping… the list is endless

So most of the time decisions on mobiles or rattles seem minor. What harm can it do to my child if he has a mobile with cute bees dancing above his head? Sure, it will not be damaging. It might though be, as Janet Lansbury put it, counterproductive. Considering that early play creates the path for a child’s ability to play, to concentrate, to maintain a longer attention span, and to learn – maybe all of these obvious toys are worth giving a second thought? We are not planning to start a revolution… yet  But just imagine this for a moment: Your baby is happily lying on a blanket on the floor, exploring the soft piece of cotton you have provided for him. The house is peacefully quiet, and so is your baby. He is learning through all of his senses, his toys are simple. You know his attention span is increasing, his problem-solving skills are growing every minute, he is engaged, focused and his brain is developing at speed you cannot even imagine. You know you have provided the best possible environment, without spending all your savings (there will be time for that). And you have not given in to the marketing gods, who claim that all the stuff out there is exactly what your child needs to be this or that. Is that so bad a vision?

So maybe we should not just question every vaccination a doctor is suggesting. Maybe we should also question EVERY toy in the store? Wink, wink 

And now let’s play!

Now having spoken so much about what not to buy – let’s have a look at the fun side. We are parents after all. We want to have toys for our children because we want them too. What can we get? What can we play with when our child is engaged in shadow plays on the wall once again?

Here are a few things we would recommend – again – from our own experience:

Safe area
Your infant needs a safe place, where he can comfortably play. Consider gates, or a space where you can leave your infant when you go to the toilet. Some babies like playing in their cot. If it is true that infants in the beginning cannot distinguish themselves from their environment, it is especially important that we provide a safe and consistent environment – try not to change all the objects everyday. Keep some things the same, so your baby can get used to his own space, and feel comfortable to explore – it is the work they do all the time, and we need to provide a good environment for them to safely do just that. Again, imagine coming to work and finding your desk rearranged every day. Would be quite hard to do any work.

Cuddly blankies, pieces of cotton, cotton scarves
These are the best first toys for little hands. They are safe and can be used in a number of different ways. Provide your baby with a few cotton toys, and see how many different uses he will find for them, and how long he can manipulate them for once he begins to be able to grab and hold them! They are also good because there is no way ain infant can hit himself with it. Make sure the pieces of cotton are large enough not to fit into their mouths, and not long enough to wrap around their necks.

Net balls or Oballs
Those are balls a baby can grab. He won’t get frustrated that it rolls away the second he touches it. They are light and allow transferring it from one hand to the other without dropping it. Again – toy industry has been very creative and found a way to build a rattle in those Oballs. So make sure you get one without!
The Oballs are also good for teething since the material is very flexible and babies can squeeze them and chew on them.

Plain wooden rings
These are really just great for teething. Make sure the rings are simple, not painted, not varnished to avoid toxic materials. Get a box of them in different sizes – your child will love those for a loooong time.

And just to give you a taste of how wonderfully an infant can play with such simple toys, have a look at Leander!

More great reading:

‘Dear Parent: Caring for infants with respect’, Magda Gerber.

http://www.janetlansbury.com/2010/10/better-toys-for-busy-babies/

Washing dishes, changing diapers…

‘There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first way is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second way is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes.’ (Thich Nhat Hanh)

An infant can have his diaper changed about six or seven thousand times during his lifetime, claims Magda Gerber, and asks: ‘Why don’t we do it nicely? Why don’t we make it a learning experience? Why don’t we want a child to enjoy being diapered?’. Diapering takes up a lot of time in the beginning, along with feeding and sleeping. In fact, that’s what we seem to spend a majority of time doing – changing, feeding, changing, feeding, and changing again…

Respectful beginnings

I remember the first ever diaper change at home. We had no idea what we were doing – it was one of those things we hadn’t really thought about (along a long list of just about everything else past the birth itself). We had watched the nurses change Antek in the hospital, and while it looked quite impressive for speed, the whole process was rather objectifying. Once our little guy was diapered, all we could think of was ‘What just happened?’. So we had him at home, on our bed, wet and unhappy, needing to be changed. Barely even 24 hours on this planet. We were scared to death that we would break his arm or leg, or that something – though we were not quite sure what exactly – would go terribly wrong. The Diaper Change Disaster went on, we were trying to change him, we put the diaper on all wrong, he peed and it went all over the place. We had to change him again. If anyone had filmed us, it would have been great for some slapstick comedy. But there was one thing that truly amazed us – once we started (and believe me, the whole disaster lasted for ever, with diapers changed about three times, one after another), Antek calmed down, and was calmly patient until the end. We talked to him, we explained what was going on, probably more for our own benefit than his. But it worked. Either he felt we were really trying to work it out together, or he had just realized that it might be a really long night. (Anna)

The amazing thing about a diaper change is that it is full of opportunities for interaction – we have to be there, we have to be present, and so does our baby. There is no other way around it. If we see it as an opportunity and a ‘learning experience’, it is bound to become one. For the experience to be respectful, though, we need to be fully present and everyone needs to be involved on their own terms, at their own pace. It’s not always easy, it’s not always straightforward, and sometimes we wished we didn’t have to do it at all. But in all honesty – our kids probably have felt the same way too. More than once.

A good starting point

Since diapering is something we have to do right from the beginning, it seems especially important to set a tone and know how we want to do it. ‘Cooperation in diapering is especially helpful because children go through periods where they don’t like being diapered and they resist it.’ (Magda Gerber) If we decide from the beginning on setting a cooperative tone during diaper changes, chances are they will remain cooperative throughout. Sometimes babies will tease, and toddlers will test – but if we have developed our own way of changing a diaper, one that involves the child, it will help us through the teasing and testing. So it really is a good investment for all of us for the future.

But the diaper change begins before we have our baby on the changing table. Way before we undress him. Respectful diaper changing starts the minute we realize that our baby needs to be changed. May it be because he is uncomfortable or because we have an appointment and want to change him before we leave the house – especially in the beginning it’s our call and we carefully have to pick the moment when we let the child know what’s about to happen.

Often we realize (or, yes – smell) that it’s time for some changing. This is in our mind and we are aware of it. The child, however, might not necessarily feel that way. He might be busy playing or observing the world around him. He might be so engaged that the wet diaper is not bothering him. Yet. That’s why we don’t just go over and pick him up. No matter how important this diaper change seems to us – we have to let the child know. This is not just a respectful way of telling a baby what is going to happen. It is the first step to cooperation.

A baby that has just been playing happily, was then suddenly lifted in the air, carried through the flat and placed onto a table where the minute he realized where he is his body gets liftet and rolled and clothes taken off will not just not want to cooperate, he won’t be capable. Because by the time he realizes what’s going on he is already half naked.

This can mean that we patiently wait for the child to „finish” his play and then let him know what is going to happen: „You have been really busy discovering your hands. I’ve seen that. I would like to change your diaper now before you will have another nap. So I’m going to pick you up and take you to the changing table.”

If we don’t seem to find this moment but have to be somewhere at a certain time we can quietly step in and let the child know without completely interrupting him: „I see you are really busy with that blanket. It seems to fascinate you. I have just checked the time and we need to get ready to go to the doctor’s. I will come and pick you up in a minute.”

And this is what we do. Come back in a minute. It’s not just the child’s play we should NOT interrupt unless it’s an emergency. It’s also cooperation we are kindly allowing by being respectful in the first place.

Cooperation and staying involved

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” (Benjamin Franklin).

Even the smallest babies can be trusted to cooperate. No, they will not put the diaper on, they won’t hold a towel, they won’t even lift their bottom in the beginning. But if we know what to expect, we might soon realize that they do cooperate in any way they can at a given age.

As soon as a baby has that much control over his limbs that he can move his arms and legs on purpose, he will be happy to help you put his shirt or trousers on. You will notice that he desperately wants to do everything himself as soon as he can (or even a little earlier). You might be surprised if suddenly you say (as usual) „Ok now I‘ll put your right arm into this shirt“ and he will lift his arm just like that. Especially in the beginning babies are so happy that they know what‘s going on and that they can help, they just do it. Only later they refuse to do it – which doesn‘t necessarily have to be a sign of a fight or rejection. It can be play but more on that later in this article.

Respect and the body

‘Diaper changes are built for intimacy’ (Janet Lansbury). Can you think of a more intimate situation that this with your infant? Can you think of a situation when he is more vulnerale than during a diaper change? Respect is especially important in those moments, because it can leave a lasting impression.

One important thing to remember is that babies don’t really choose to make anyone around uncomfortable by having a dirty diaper. It’s normal. It’s natural. And while we no longer wear diapers, we still go to the toilet and do pretty much the same thing. Ok, now that it’s out in the open that we all do it (and that while it’s not always pleasant to change a diaper, it is also not always pleasant to walk into a toilet after somebody else, and yet we don’t comment on that in public…), we can talk about it respectfully J

The way we handle diaper situations from the beginning, sets the tone for how our children will think about their bodies and bodily functions in the future. If we can pay little or no attention to the smelliness and the mess, but rather focus on building a relationship during this process, our kids are likely to think about their own bodies in a more healthy and respectful way. It is not only unkind, it’s also unfair to make children ashamed of a healthy functioning of their body – we can bet if they could choose, they would not want their diapers to be smelly either (wouldn’t we all want our toliets to smell like roses?).

We all want our children to be pleased with the way they look, not to be ashamed of their bodies – part of this success lies on our diapering table.

A learning experience

What kinds of things can babies learn during a diaper change?

  • The importance of knowing their own body, and knowing they have the ownership of it (if we ask babies to participate, tell them when and where we will touch them and wait for a sign that they are ready, if we involve rather than distract)
  • That they are important and worthy of our attention (if we ‘wash the dishes to wash the dishes’ rather than rushing through the process quickly to get it over with)
  • That they are capable (if we ask them to cooperate and give them time to do so, if we allow them to help, if we involve them in the process rather than distracting them with a toy)
  • That there is nothing shameful about their bodies and any bodily function – that it is normal and we all do it
  • Lots and lots of language – it has been shown numerous times, that children remember words that they find useful much more quickly (if we talk and explain what is going on – much more effective than any flashcards!)
  • How to cooperate with someone to achieve something together (if we ask them to, and wait and wait… and give them a chance to actively participate in the process, even though sometimes it might take longer)

Fun and clarity

In the beginning it might seem like a lot of talking to our newborn. But the benefits of it are great. Not only does the baby hear our voice and feel a bit more secure, he will learn the meaning of what we are saying and learn to anticipate what is coming next. Even if he does not understand every word of it, he knows the sound of the sentences. This is then something he can focus on. ,What is s/he doing now? Ah ok so this will come next.‘

As mentioned before – smiling at you on the changing table, laughing and „not fighting“ are first signs of cooperation. These signs show you that the baby is not annoyed by what is coming up, but instead knows that he will be spending some quality time with mom or dad now.

If we then talk to our baby, not only about what we are doing but also about what he is doing „You are grabbing my hair. Yes, that‘s my hair. How does it feel?“ the fun gets even better. Because fun is allowed. Smile. Laugh with him. And respond to his play. Because if your baby rolls over all the time, gives you the „wrong“ arm or leg – this is not always fighting or rejecting. It can be play. If a child has experienced respectful diaper changes while mom is completely focused, not rushed, with no phone interruptions or household – he will try and stretch those treasure times. By playing with us. Asking for our undivided attention just a little longer. Lets go with it. For a while.

But if we then do drift off the „plan“ and respond to the baby „Hey you just turned around when I wanted to take your diaper off“ we should stay clear and let him know what our expectations are. „Ok you want to roll over again, that‘s fine and I can see you are enjoying it, but then I want to take off your diaper.“

The child always needs to know what we want. Don‘t play with him if you are actually busy. Don‘t let a diaper change become only play. It‘s still a diaper  change. It‘s still a „thing to be done“ rather than a game we play whenever we feel like it. Something to look forward to.

Individuals

„Every child is different. Every day.“ (Lienhard Valentin)

But it‘s not only children who are individuals and so completely different from each other. It‘s us too. A diaper change is therefore a wonderful way for a child to experience those various personalities. Dad might be having troubles with all the buttons and might not remember where things go after mom has rearranged the changing area for the 5th time. But he still cares, takes his time, talks. Just differently.

I remember one evening when I was hiding behind the door while my husband was changing Leander‘s diaper. It was during the first weeks. I have been home alone during the days and slowly found my routine and now I was curious how my husband was doing things with our little man. 

I found that he was a bit fast and not talking enough (for my expectations). I was just about to step in and tell him to slow down, to explain more and… when I stopped and thought: „This is their way. They will get together on their own terms. It will all be good.“ Then I left and never hovered behind doors again. 

A few months back – Leander was about 1 1/2 – my husband said to me in the evening: „You know it‘s actually quite amazing. You just have to slow down, give him time and in the end it‘s him who does the things he refused to do a few minutes ago. Without fighting or anything.“ They have found their way. And when I hear Leander singing from his room after they went off together to change his diaper I know – they are having fun together. (Nadine)

Patience is not something we have from the very beginning (well, those of you who do – lucky you and we are officially jealous). We grow it along the way. Just as we grow. As persons.

A diaper change is the possibility to meet with no interruptions. And grow together. So, do you remember the first time you changed your baby? What was it like?

Can’t wait to hear from You!

 

More reading:

“How to love a diaper change” Janet Lansbury
http://www.janetlansbury.com/2010/05/how-to-love-a-diaper-change/

“Changing Perceptions on changing diapers” Lisa Sunbury
http://www.regardingbaby.org/2011/07/31/641/

Playing through the first 3 months

We love to play. In fact, this website is our playground – one of the many we have. And since play is something we both love and care about, we decided to approach it methodically (doesn’t that sound fun? ;). This is the first of what will hopefully be a series of posts about play at different ages and stages of development. We will kick off, originally, with infants 0-3 months and then move on to older babies and toddlers. We would love for you to join in, with your ideas of play, your memories of your own play and that of your children. We are no play experts – we can merely recap for you what we think, and what we have observed so far !

Let us know if you like what you’re reading.

Playing through the first three months (or – what is this ‘play’ everyone keeps talking about?)

When we hear the word play, the first connotation of this word are children. In fact, play is what is suddenly everywhere when you have a child – playthings, playgrounds, playgroups. Suddenly it all becomes to be about play. But what is play really? What does a newborn need to play? And how do infants play?

What is this ‘play’ thing?

Tons of images come to mind when we think about play. Children playing in the sand, making mud pies; role-playing; pretend-play… With all of this in mind, it is very hard to talk about infants playing. If we conceptualize play as a form of specific activity, it is difficult to imagine a 1-, 2- or 3-month old baby playing. After all, what kinds of activities do infants engage in? We want our babies to play, we want to see them play, but do we know what to look for?

Essentially, we all want to understand the world. And more than the world even, ‚we are the species that needs and wants to understand who we are’ (Anne Lamott). We want to understand ourselves and our loved ones and be a part of their world. So when it comes to infants playing – we want them to play, but we also want and need to understand their play, and so also perhaps participate, encourage. We want to do all those things that will make us a part of their world, and them a part of ours. But this understanding of how we see our infants play needs a bit of shift, in our humble opinion. We need to let our infants play and to be able to comfortably do that, we need to know how to understand play. If we see play as an activity, we will usually need to ensure that infants engage in an activity that we validate as play. We may feel the need to ‚entertain’, to make our babies giggle, make sure they are having fun. We may stimulate. And in doing so, we may not allow their own play to develop. But why?

Maybe it would be easier for us to see infants at play if we reframed how we understand play? What if, instead of thinking about play as some kind of activity, a game, or ‘having fun’, we tried to think of play not in terms of its content but its mode. What if we saw play as ‘an approach to action, not a form of activity’ (Jerome Bruner)? It might be more similar to the way we think about ‘playing with ideas’ – it is a way we discover, explore and engage with the world around.

Putting it this way, we are no longer confined by the belief that we need to help our babies play, but rather we are free to observe how they play. And yet, we can begin to grasp what playing is for them. How they play. What if we started conceptualizing play in terms of exploration, engagement, discovery? Because surely, even at later stages of life, this is what play is essentially about. Only at these later stages it also has a form (or content) that is more familiar to us, that we can relate to, that is more to do with the world around us and with what we know. With mud-pies and role-playing. But during those early months it seems to be about mode, and content might only come into play later on… If we define play as an approach to action, an engagement in something with an open mind, ready to explore and discover and open to possibilities, chances are we will see our infants playing practically all the time. And we will be enchanted. We might even join in…

Free play

Emmi Pikler said that play is a child’s inner need just as movement is. It’s an inner drive. A must. No healthy and cared for newborn would just lie on his back not moving, not looking around or not “playing” at all.

Dust particles, shadows, a moving curtain, the sunlight on the wall, flying arms and legs – which only later will be discovered as their own – it’s all part of a baby’s play. And this is the key. If we allow that, if we sit aside instead of “in front” we can observe the “origin of free play” as Emmi Pikler called it. Because that’s what it is. The play with their hands – opening and closing them, moving them into eyesight and out again, touching one hand with the other – is the actual preparation for the play with objects. In the same way the infant will then later grab a toy and move it above his eyes, let it fall, pick it up and give it from one hand into another. This is why this early form of play is so important and why every child should be allowed enough time a day to play that way. It sounds so simple, but it’s not.

One big rule of free play is that it has no rules. The child is leading and following his own ideas. But above that hovers one greater rule – Don’t interrupt! And this is a wonderful rule, a chance actually, because that way you can learn to read your baby. You will get to know his ways of playing, what he enjoys, what interests him. Isn’t that how we learn most about a person?

What can we expect?

Infants from birth to three months are only getting used to the world around them. Everything is new, and so, in a way, the possibilities for discovery are endless. If we allow for uninterrupted self-initiated play we will quickly learn what our child likes to engage in, what interests him most, what kind of character he has. The biggest part of their play is usually discovery of their own body – you will notice the movement, the fascination with their own arms and legs. Imagine how amazing it must feel to discover that you have control over your own body! The development and refinement of senses is also a constant stimulus for exploration. Voices, sounds, faces, details on the wall, a moving branch outside the window – all of it can become an endless point of focus for a newborn. It is a magical sight to see an infant engrossed in an activity. It’s possible. But we need to provide the time and space for it to happen.

Allowing all of this to inspire our child will also allow us to see the world through their eyes – a truly powerful gift, especially on a day when we forgot how wonderfully exciting everything around us is.

Once we realize the amount of physical, cognitive and emotional development babies do in the first year, the need for us to provide external stimulus fades away. Do they really need more to play with than what they already have?

When and how does play happen?

Modern motherhood begins with all sorts of appointments. Doctor’s check ups for the baby and the mother, postnatal gym classes to which the babies are invited, breastfeeding classes, playgroups and not to mention restaurants and coffee houses because modern moms don’t sit at home all day anymore. This is great, we can and should go out and we are not suggesting you should lock yourself in. What we are suggesting though is just be aware of how much time in between all those appointments, feeding sessions, diaper changes and naps a baby has to play happily and self-initiated. Play, just like anything else we fully engage in, takes time. If we believe that play is a creative process of discovery we need to allow it to happen. (a wonderful talk on creativity – where he mentions time twice! – by John Cleese can be found here: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/04/12/john-cleese-on-creativity-1991/. The fascinating thing is – babies tend to do all these things kind of naturally!)

Free play is only possible if the child is rested, fed and all his needs are met. It’s not something they “just do in between”, especially not, when we would love them to (e.g. when waiting for an appointment, in the restaurant, in the car etc). Quite often parents say: “He will not play on is own for only a minute.” This is the moment we should stop and think about our day, our routine, our expectations. This does not mean that it’s our “fault”, if the child is not able to play independently. It just gives us a straw to pull on. Again think about it as a creative process – imagine writing an article, solving a problem or coming up with a good idea in those ten minutes you have between cooking and doing the laundry…

Another point is that we should still be present. When thinking of free play we often have the picture of a little baby playing happily while mommy is cooking dinner in the kitchen. While these moments do happen, we should not expect that but rather sit down and observe the child. Especially in the beginning babies just want us “there”. And this is the fine line between being there, being present, listening to him and playing for him, entertaining him, leading his play. This is what Magda Gerber refers to as ‚wants nothing quality time’. I don’t want anything from you. Just to be here, get to know who you are and watch you play.

Parenthood is a great opportunity to throw the TV out (at least for a while, if not forever). Because watching your baby, observing his play and allowing yourself to get engaged in his world can be such excitement and entertainment that no TV show can compete with.

What is your idea of play? What were the most grasping and eye opening moments for you during those early months? Join our playground! Play with us!

More reading…

„The Origins of Free Play“ by Éva Kálló and Györgyi Balog (published by the Pikler Institute Berlin)

http://www.janetlansbury.com/2009/09/the-myth-of-baby-boredom/

http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/2011/10/life-itself.html

 

What is respect ?

When we first came across the work that has been inspiring us as parents (that of Emmi Pikler, Janusz Korczak, Alfie Kohn and Magda Gerber – to name a few) the thing that drew us most towards this kind of approach to a child was the ever-present sense of respect. And throughout our writing here on these pages, we will be talking about respect, and about children’s right to respect. It might then be worth defining what we mean.

What is respect?

What respect is, is essentially a difficult philosophical question. What we mean when we talk about respecting another person is not always clear, nor is it always used with the same meaning.When we (Nadine & Anna) use respect on our website, we talk about respect in the very basic sense – respect we all deserve just by virtue of being human. When we talk about respect we don’t mean it as referring to any kind of value or moral judgment (like respecting someone for what they do, or what they have accomplished, or the kinds of things they stand for), but the feeling towards another human being that values their dignity. A very basic response to another person, which, we believe, everyone has a right to from birth. Babies are whole people no matter what needs we have to take care of for a few weeks, months or years. Babies are people with every smile and every giggle as well as every cry and every woken night. And it goes on. Infants, Toddlers – they’re all people that deserve respect. In every phase of their lives.

We also believe that there should essentially be no difference in respecting babies, children, toddlers, boys, girls, men, women, adults or elderly, since respect is something we all have a right to. Nor should there be any difference in our expressions of respect.

How do we see babies?

When we go a few generations back children were seen as unfinished people that needed to develop into full human beings. To achieve that, it was thought, they needed to be disciplined. Praised and punished. Very often hit, and silenced. (In a number of countries babies are still regularly hit and punished physically, have a look here -http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/ and here http://www.corpun.com/). They were told what to do when and how to do it. Boys different than girls.Men different than women.We now live in a time that (finally) has come to an understanding that babies and children are capable of much more than people used to assume (a wonderful TED talk by Alison Gopnik about how babies think can be found here -http://www.ted.com/talks/alison_gopnik_what_do_babies_think.html). They are young personalities with strengths and weaknesses. And this is the difficult part. Because when we talk about respecting children it means accepting all of those strengths as well as all of those weaknesses. With the same loving care we do for our partners, friends and other family members. And with the same loving kindness we should have for ourselves (because, apparently, if you’re not kind to yourself, you cannot be kind to others).

An interesting thought that encompasses a lot of it was once expressed by Janusz Korczak: ‘There are no children’ he wrote ‘ only people’. What does this mean to you?

What does respect mean to you?

We asked some of our friends to finish this sentence: ‘To respect another person means to…’. Since we asked them in an e-mail, some opted out. Before you continue reading, try and finish this sentence for yourself. It’s not so easy, so take your time…

To respect another person means to…

Here are some of the most common responses we got, and we wonder if you can relate, agree or maybe have other ones:

… treat another person like we would like to be treated
… try to understand their feelings and take them into account
… accept who he is
… allow him to be who he is
… not manipulate them

Respecting children is something that is said quite easily but in practice not the easiest thing to live. Since we strongly feel our babies deserve respect, let’s have a look at those ‘meanings of respect’ in relation to babies (or more generally – children). What does it really mean to respect another person, and how can we practice respect in dealing with babies?

Respecting their needs

As mentioned before, respecting children begins on day one. From the first moment on we can trust babies sleep pattern and feeding time. Of course day- and nighttimes are something they still have to get used to. But they do. On their own.In their own time.

All we really have to do is to fulfill their basic needs. This sounds reasonable, but it obviously isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Because picking up or feeding a crying baby is not always what is meant by fulfilling basic needs. Respecting a baby means to carefully figure out what the reason is behind the crying. To listen to the crying.To try and understand it. To allow yourself the understanding and respect for their needs, before fulfilling them. Waiting and trying to understand is then respectful because only in this way we can try to understand their feelings and take them into account.

This will not only help you understand your baby from the beginning and beyond words. It will give your child the ability to communicate with you – to understand the different responses behind his actions. These are wonderful first steps to learn how to express various emotions and needs – something most of us adults are lacking (beyond thirty and we can safely say that we’re still learning that one!)

Respecting their physical and emotional integrity

Besides the great amount of trust it’s a huge amount of respect you show your child by letting him develop – mentally as well as motorically – on his own and in his own time. Not sitting him up before he can do it himself and by not walking him holding your hands. For his mental and emotional development this means “I can do this. Even if I take a little longer than others.”It means we allow them to own their own success (a lovely post about walking babies by Janet Lansbury can be found here – http://www.janetlansbury.com/2011/03/9-reasons-not-to-walk-babies/)

As far as their motor development goes, letting your child develop in their own time means allowing them to get to know their own body and movement within. A child that has mastered every step of his gross motor development himself is not just happy and free but also knows his own limits and respects for himself what he can or cannot do.

You can read more of our thoughts on movement in various guises if you’re interested.
For posts from Anna go here: http://www.everymomentisright.blogspot.com/search/label/movement,
and from Nadine go here: http://www.piklerexperience.blogspot.com/

Respecting their pace, their ways, their view of the world

Our children are not us. Yes, simple truth, but so hard to live with, wouldn’t you agree? It means their view of the world is different, but not only in a developmental way – they are simply different people. Sometimes they will disagree with you (our sons are still toddlers, but we fear that moment ;)). Sometimes even – they will be right. And we won’t. And that’s ok too… we think.

Another important base for a respectful foundation is the allowance of free play. And this was a great eye opener for us. Instead of entertaining our boys the minute they woke up we tried to watch them, carefully observe and try to follow what they are focusing on. This was better and much more entertaining than any movie we may have missed throughout those first months. To be part of their world rather than making them part of ours was so wonderful and touching. Priceless moments we’re forever grateful for. Still now – just days after our boys turned two – we have ideas and expectations of play and “fun” that they simply aren’t interested in at all. So we try to respect that.

We let them run off with the ball instead of teaching them how to kick it back and forth. We don’t build high towers or exquisite architecture with their building blocks when they prefer to sort their toy cars in lanes. But how wonderful is it, on the other hand, to be invited to a game, and learn new rules we didn’t know existed (yeah, ok, sometimes we don’t quite understand the rules, but we’re trying ;)).

We simply let them be. We try to accept…allow…and not manipulate.

Another great way to show respect to your child is to let him “lead” the daily routine. Allow him to play as he wants, choose his own toys, and respect his choices (we tend to offer the choices we can live with, but not interrupt in the play times). But also – be sensitive to their schedule.

Yes, it may be tough those first few months, but there is the joy of a peaceful child, whose needs are met, and who is at peace with the world around him. Again though – we tend to say: within your own limits. Because apart from respect for all the other beings around you, the one necessary step is to start with respect for yourself!

We have been talking a lot about respecting our children over the years. We will try and share our thoughts with you in the coming months, and hope that you will be sharing your thoughts with us. But to get the conversation started, we would like to invite you to talk about something else – something perhaps where this discussion needs to start. In talking about respecting others, we have come to understand something a lot of you maybe already know. That we need to respect ourselves first. Do you agree? Hmmm… Easier said than done, most likely. So, here is where we would like you all to join in the discussion – tell us, how you can show respect for yourself. Maybe how you can respect yourself in the daily struggles, on a daily basis? Or maybe you have some special way of practising respect for yourself? And why do you think it is so important?? We can’t wait to hear from you!