[Portions reprinted with permission from Raising Bookworms: Tips, Tools & Techniques for Sharing a Love of Reading with Children by L.R.Knost available June 2014; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available.]
“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” ~Anna Quindlen
There’s no denying that reading is a vital part of successfully navigating our information-driven world, but literacy, true literacy, is so much more than simply acquiring information. Literacy is a love of and appreciation for the wisdom of the ages. It is a quest for the knowledge of those who have gone before us and shared their thoughts, discoveries, and experiences in dusty old tomes and modern paperbacks.
Sharing that love, that appreciation, that quest with our children is the gift of a lifetime of exploration, imagination, and revelation. It is the gift of curiosity, wonder, and discovery. Truly, to paraphrase George R.R. Martin, it is the gift of a thousand lifetimes lived in just one.
To that end, here is my virtual reading room, its bookshelves filled with literacy tips, book recommendations, literary quotes, learning through play ideas, and more. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, grab a cozy chair, and join me on the journey of a lifetime…
- When it comes to reading, do you want your children to become readers or just learn the mechanics of reading? Do you want them to love to read or just to know how? If a love of reading is your goal for your children, here are some ideas to get you started… 8 Tips for Raising Bookworms
- Fairy tales in childhood are stepping-stones throughout life, leading the way through trouble and trial. The value of fairy tales lies not in a brief literary escape from reality, but in the gift of hope that goodness truly is more powerful than evil and that even the darkest reality can lead to a Happily Ever After. Do not take that gift of hope lightly. It has the power to conquer despair in the midst of sorrow, to light the darkness in the valleys of life, to whisper “One more time” in the face of failure. Hope is what gives life to dreams, making the fairy tale the reality. Fairy Tales~The Lost Value of ‘Once upon a time…’
- Bookworm weighs in on must-have books for your children in Little Hearts’ How to Build a Home Library for Bookworms from Tots to Teens series. Check out 25 Must-Have Books for Baby Bookworms, 25 Must-Have Books for Toddler Bookworms, 25 Must-Have Books for Preschool Bookworms, and watch for 25 Must-Have Books for Early Elementary Bookworms, 25 Must-Have Books for Tween Bookworms, 25 Must-Have Books for Teen Bookworms, and 25 Must-Have Books for Young Adult Bookworms in the coming weeks as well as literacy tips, book activities, and book nook ideas
- Imagination is the language of childhood, so speaking their language when introducing our language only makes sense. Let’s ditch the flashcards, turn off the educational dvd’s, and throw out the worksheets…because learning is child’s play! Alphabet Fun~Imagination From A to Z!
- Successful reading means far more than possessing the ability to read. Engaging the hearts of students moves reading success beyond a life skill and turns it into a life style. And graphic novels are too powerful of a tool in our arsenal to be disregarded because of pride or prejudice… Raising Super Readers~The MARVELous Power of Comic Books!
- There is such a rush these days to get children sleeping through the night, weaned off the breast, eating solid foods, potty trained, reading independently, and on and on, that we seem to have lost the ability to simply enjoy life as it happens and let our children do the same. A Return to Childhood
- In the world of a child wonders are as simple as sticks and sheets, leaves and books, boxes and giggles, and the promise in a rainy day. The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood
- Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Unique learners have beautiful minds just waiting to find their genius. We just need to look outside of the box to help them find it. Helping Unique Learners Find Their Genius
- Think homeschooled children are unsocialized, over-controlled, locked-away-from-the-world misfits? Think again! My Renaissance Girl
- My SPD/SLD/ADD (Sensory Processing Disorder, Specific Learning Disability-Dyslexia, Visual and Auditory Processing Disorders, Attention Deficit Disorder, etc) sweetie, aka Renaissance Girl, has raised the bar on my homeschooling skills more times than I can count. Her beautiful mind sees the world through a unique lens similar to those of historical icons such as Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein…Beautiful Minds
- 1.) Books + Time + Imagination = Endless possibilities! 25 Reasons NOT to Keep Your Children Busy
- March 1st is World Book Day, and March 2nd is Dr. Seuss’ Birthday Extravaganza which includes the release of the much-anticipated new movie, The Lorax! If you’re a book-obsessed, homeschooling, movie-loving, Seussiac like I am, it’s practically a national holiday! And when you add my excitement over my newest little home-grown reader, it’s definitely time for a Seusserrific Celebration! In honor of all of this wonderfulness and to help launch my new little reader into the wonderful world of books, I’ve been scouring the web, the bookshelves, and my scattered brain for all the Seussical fun I could find for my little people and yours. Here are a few of my finds… Seuss-ified~Craft-astic~Snack-errific~Education-cool~Fun!
- Parenting choices strongly impact the level and type of attachment a child develops and, by extension, the development of a love of learning. A love of learning grows when it isn’t stifled by fear or stress or regimented by over-structuring or a focus on achievement or competition. Parents fostering a healthy attachment are thus also fostering a life-long love of learning in their children. Love, Play, Learn!
- Truly, what is our goal for our children? Knowledge memorized in lists and tables and regurgitated on bubble-in tests? Or knowledge coupled with experience that leads to understanding and, ultimately, wisdom? Benjamin Franklin said it best when he said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” The Many Adventures of My Little Pooh Bear
- 188.) Make them a cozy reading nook; 189.) Squeeze yourself into their reading nook and cuddle up for storytime; 190.) Read them fairy tales; 191.) Buy them comic books; 192.) Make paperchains for the Christmas tree; 193.) Have a birthday party for Jesus before opening presents on Christmas morning; 194.) Make blessing bags and mail them to our troops; 195.) Build bookshelves and start a home library for them… 200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood
- If you give a toddler a book
He’ll climb into your lap
While he’s in your lap
He might lay his head on your chest
When he lays his head on your chest
He’ll hear your heartbeat
When he hears your heartbeat
He’ll probably ask if you can hear his…
If You Give A Toddler A Book…
“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!” ~Dr. Seuss
Homeschooling a unique learner can be challenging simply because you don’t get the benefit of access to testing and professional support without a lot of initiative, research, phone calls, and door-knocking on your part. But the trade-off is the freedom to tailor your teaching and learning environment to your child’s needs, and that’s of incredible value when educating a unique learner.
Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Unique learners have beautiful minds just waiting to find their genius. We just need to look outside of the box to help them find it.
Here are some of the tips, tools, and techniques I’ve learned through years of homeschooling my unique learners to help them combat (Get it? ‘Bat’ like in the Dr. Seuss quote above? Come on, it’s a little funny!) the challenges they face on a daily basis:
1.) Lighten up…This tip I’ve already demonstrated. Everything in life is easier if you take it with a grain of salt and learn to laugh. Our unique learners will have more struggles and challenges than the average person throughout life, not just during their school years. That is an unavoidable fact. But who wants to be ‘average’ anyway? Help them to celebrate their uniqueness and embrace the future with grace and humor by sharing your own struggles, modeling coping techniques, and being able to laugh at your own mistakes. Make ‘even missteps are valuable steps on the road to success’ your homeschool motto!
2.) Play…Children learn best through play, and that applies to therapy, as well. Experience is the only true path to learning, so let their imaginations soar as they do the hard work of learning to cope with their unique challenges. (See some play-based, brain-enriching, and eye-tracking activities below)
3.) Jazz it up…Music truly is medicine for the soul. Buy a good set of headphones (not earbuds) and play classic instrumentals softly while your unique learner is trying to concentrate, whether it be on reading or writing or drawing, etc. Filtering out the cacophony of life and soothing their stress levels with the gentle strains of Mozart are only some of the benefits of music. Did you know that the rhythms, cadence, and timing of music actually have an organizing effect on the brain? No joke!
4.) Exercise…Invest in an exercise bicycle (We got ours for $15 from a yard sale!) that lets your unique learner sit in a comfortable seat while pedaling. The cross-over action of pedaling also has an organizing effect on the brain, and, if used while reading or playing video games (Yes, video games can be great exercises for eye-tracking if you choose the right ones!) can actually increase the speed and effectiveness of learning!
5.) Get crunchy…Believe it or not, another ‘brain organizing’ activity is chewing, particularly crunchy foods, while reading, etc. Some good choices are pretzels, carrot sticks, celery, granola, and nuts. (If you’ve got a sensory sweetie like I do, be careful to let them choose something that won’t send their senses into overdrive!) Sugarless chewing gum can be substituted when going places where foods aren’t appropriate, but a calming, organizing aid would be helpful.
6.) Listen, listen, listen…Your unique learner will have more than their share of stress and possibly a harder time articulating it than others might. Slow down and really focus on what they are communicating. Listen ‘between the lines’ to their heart, their hurts, their fears, their needs. Be their safe place, their source of comfort and renewal.
7.) Hug it out…Physical closeness is healing, and so make sure that along with the extra struggles and challenges your unique learner faces, they get lots of extra cuddles, snuggles, and hugs. When they get older, a gentle touch on their shoulder or a light hand on their arm will be instantly calming and comforting because it will tap into those feelings of comfort and closeness from earlier childhood.
8.) Watch and learn…Just as every child is different, every child with challenges is unique in how they manifest those challenges and how they handle them. Paying careful attention to your own unique learner’s personality, struggles, aversions, triggers, etc. will give you clues as to how to help them learn to cope. With SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder), for example, avoiding unpleasant stimulus and providing needed stimulus is the name of the game. Typically, you’ll want to provide a quiet learning area at home, lots of freedom to move, permission to step away and de-stress when they feel overwhelmed, etc. and, when going out, avoid buffet-style restaurants and loud, crowded shopping and entertainment venues.
9.) Guide them gently…Discipline invites communication. Punishment crushes it. Keep those vital lines of communication open and healthy by providing consistent boundaries and gentle guidance, being open to discussion, and modeling the desired behavior.
10.) Read, read, read…Successful readers are not simply those who understand the mechanics of reading anymore than successful biking is understanding how a bicycle works. Readers are born when a love for reading is fostered. Let them see you reading often. Cuddle up and read to them when they are young. Co-read (you read a sentence, they read a sentence, etc) when they are new readers or when they are tired or struggling. Let them read comics. No joke! The relation of pictures to words is a huge aid in reading comprehension. (For more reading tips, see Raising Bookworms)
Here are some exercises and activities that have helped my Renaissance Girl with her challenges with SPD, dyslexia, ADD, visual/auditory processing disorders, dyscalculia, etc:
Gross motor and fine motor cross-over exercises to get the two sides of the brain communicating more efficiently…
~Bouncing a brightly colored ball back and forth between us using alternate hands (left, right, left, right, etc.)
~Skipping, marching, swinging while singing
~Free-style building with blocks, tinkertoys, legos, etc.
~Laser pointer games-following a laser pointer light in a darkened room, pointing to moving targets (i.e. bubbles), etc.
~Ceiling tracing-following the seam of the wall and ceiling from corner to corner moving only the eyes
~Video games-Flash Focus and Brain Age are good choices for the Gameboy. Wii Fit, Carnival Games, and Sports Games are good for the Wii. There are also great games for improving eye-tracking for the X-box, Playstation, and online. If you do the research to find what best fits your child’s interests, you’ll have much better participation!
~Clay letters-tactile learning by forming letters and words on a template with clay or dough
~Contextual learning-Children with dyslexia tend to learn better in context than by breaking things down to their parts, so phonics-based learning is often mind-boggling for them. Flashcards are a no-go because speed and movement impede their attempts to focus rather than help them. Writing-based learning such as copying and illustrating short poems, copying a short sentence from a wall-mounted chalkboard or large paper taped to the wall and illustrating it, writing and illustrating their own stories, and writing stories on the computer are great ways to help them learn to read.
~Once they are beginning to read, graphic novels, large-print chapter books on topics that interest them, and continued creative writing are excellent practice.
~Online reading games can be helpful, but only if they are untimed (Timed anything is a huge stressor and sets them up for frustration and failure.) and your child feels comfortable with the level of activity and brightness on the screen as otherwise these can cause headaches and their eyes to tire quickly.
These tips are not, of course, exhaustive or a replacement for professional therapies. But as you work your way through what can often be a labyrinth of paperwork, meetings, appointments, etc. on your way to finding the services your child needs, these may help to ease the wait a bit.
Children who love to read…READ! Engaging children’s hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics. Raising Bookworms
It’s time for a return to childhood, to simplicity, to running and climbing and laughing in the sunshine, to experiencing happiness instead of being trained for a lifetime of pursuing happiness…it’s time to let children be children again. A Return to Childhood
Think homeschooled children are unsocialized, over-controlled, locked-away-from-the-world misfits? Think again! My Renaissance Girl
Successful reading means far more than possessing the ability to read. Engaging the hearts of students moves reading success beyond a life skill and turns it into a life style. And graphic novels are too powerful of a tool in our arsenal to be disregarded because of pride or prejudice. Raising Super Readers~The MARVELous Power of Comic Books!
In the world of a child wonders are as simple as sticks and sheets, leaves and books, boxes and giggles, and the promise in a rainy day. The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood
Parenting choices strongly impact the level and type of attachment a child develops and, by extension, the development of a love of learning. A love of learning grows when it isn’t stifled by fear or stress or regimented by over-structuring or a focus on achievement or competition. Parents fostering a healthy attachment are thus also fostering a life-long love of learning in their children. Live to Play~Play to Learn~Learn to Live!
If you give a toddler a book
He’ll climb into your lap
While he’s in your lap
He might lay his head on your chest
When he lays his head on your chest
He’ll hear your heartbeat
When he hears your heartbeat
He’ll probably ask if you can hear… If You Give A Toddler A Book…
Einstein recognized his unique lens and often commented about it and about how organized education systems didn’t accommodate individuality and creativity. Here is a look into this ‘unique learner’s’ mind in his own words…Beautiful Minds
[Reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost]
“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am a ‘baby mama’ when it comes to parenting my adult children. That means that my adult parenting skills are in their infancy despite the fact that…
As a mother of six from 25 years old all the way down to 25 months old, three of whom are adults, two of them married, one with two small children, three with college degrees, one a Pastor, one a Family Therapist, one a senior pre-med student, two who are teenagers, two currently homeschooled, one a kindergartener, and one a diaper-bottomed nursing toddler, my ‘boots on the ground’ parenting experience is not only wide-ranged, but also very current for nearly every stage of parenting possible.
and the fact that…
I have studied developmental and educational psychology, have more than two decades of training and experience in leading and developing student and children’s ministries, have created curriculums for both home education and church-based learning centers, have trained in, worked in, and directed early childhood education programs, worked with high-risk youth as a leader and mentor, and have extensive experience as a parenting author, speaker, and coach.
But even in this ’baby mama’ stage, I know that…
None of those afore mentioned facts make it okay for me to over-step my boundaries as a parent of adult children who are just establishing their own families, just embarking on their careers, just beginning to make their mark on the world.
Now what I’m trying to figure out is…
What are my boundaries?
That, friends, is the 64,000 dollar question, and here’s why:
All stages of parenting come with their own unique learning curve, their own challenges and frustrations, their own compromises and sacrifices, and their own flubs, false steps, and failures. From those first terror-stricken days with a newborn to the sleep-deprived months of infancy to the challenges of toddlerhood and beyond, parenting is a journey, not a destination. And when subsequent little ones arrive, the journey starts all over again as we discover that the lessons learned from parenting one child don’t always apply to the next as each have their own incomparable personalities, quirks, and individual identities.
The principles of gentle parenting (i.e. connection, empathy, intentionality, respect) don’t change as our children grow, just as they don’t change from one child to the next. What does change is our understanding of those principles as we grow in wisdom and experience as parents and human beings. The practical application of gentle parenting principles, though, can look very different from child to child and life stage to life stage. For instance, with an introverted child gentle parenting might involve a greater degree of physical proximity and emotional support whereas with a very extroverted child it may involve a greater degree of energy direction and respectful guidance.
This constancy of principles and individualized application of gentle parenting is no less true when parenting our adult children than it is when parenting our minor children. As gentle parents, we are our children’s first and best friend in the purest and truest definition of friendship. That sets the stage for the transition from the early parent/friend years to the parent-friendship that will characterize our relationship when our children grow into adulthood.
Here are 12 practical tips for gently parenting your adult children:
1.) Begin to consciously pay attention to your own parents’ interactions with you. Mentally catalogue what you find helpful and what you find intrusive, what is an acceptable level of involvement, advice, and interaction and what feels overbearing or lacking. Make a mental (or actual!) note to remember those feelings when your own children become adults.
2.) Remember, parenting is literally ‘on the job’ learning. Your parents are discovering by trial and error (often lots of error) what their roles and boundaries are in this uncharted territory of parenting adults. Model giving your parents grace when they overstep or underplay their roles. This will set the stage for your children to extend the same grace to you when seemingly overnight you suddenly find yourself learning to parent your own adult children.
3.) While your child is an infant, meet their needs swiftly, consistently, and gently. They won’t remember what you did or didn’t do at this stage, but they will always carry with them how it made them feel. Make sure what they feel is safe, secure, and loved so that is they will take with them into adulthood.
4.) When your child reaches toddlerhood, focus on connection rather than correction. What will matter most in later years won’t be whether they wore matching shoes or left the park without pitching a fit. What will matter is whether they felt heard, understood, and respected.
5.) As your child moves into the preschool and early childhood years, focus on communication, whether that takes the form of whining, tattling, endless questions or some combination of all three. Continue to build a trust relationship by hearing their heart rather than their tone and responding with gentle guidance.
6.) When your child reaches the middle stages of childhood, listening to the endless stories from your chatterbox or offering empathy and quiet support to your dreamer will help them as they explore who they are and who they want to be when they grow up. You are building the friendship of a lifetime in these interactions, so make them a priority!
7.) Once your child enters the teen years, consciously begin to gradually shift your role into a supporting rather than a leading act. Listen not to their words, their attitudes, their hormones, their angst. Listen instead to their struggles, their hopes, their dreams, their fears. Remember, you are the only adult in the relationship at this point. They still have a lot of maturing to do. Practice self-control. Be honest about your own struggles, fears, and failings. You’ll be amazed at what a connection point that is as your teen discovers that they aren’t alone in their humanness. Be the first one to listen, the first one to forgive, the first one to apologize, the first one to understand, the first one to back down and try to find another way when the going gets tough.
8.) When your child becomes an adult, let them set the pace. Some children will hit eighteen and be ready to move into a university dorm or get a job and an apartment right away. Others will need a slower transition. They may need to stay at home while going to university or while taking some time to try out different jobs as they explore this strange new world of adulthood. If the time comes that you feel they need a gentle nudge out of the nest, you can help them to find an acceptable roommate or two and guide them through the process of settling into independent adulthood.
9.) Once your child is out on their own, your role will shift fully to a support system. Offering unsolicited advice is fine as long as it is briefly stated…once. After that, it becomes intrusive. Offers of help and invitations to family events, etc. should follow the same guidelines.
10.) When your child starts a family of their own, consciously bring to mind how you felt at various times when your own parents supported you in your new role and/or interfered with the establishment of your new little family. Acknowledge to yourself and to them that they won’t do everything the way you did, that they will make decisions you wouldn’t make, that you will offer advice that won’t be heeded, and that they will make mistakes and have to learn from them just like you did.
11.) On the subject of making mistakes, remember, just as you wouldn’t want every youthful mistake, every wrong choice, every unfortunate decision to be broadcast to the world or even just joked about privately instead of being left in the past where it belongs, be sure to practice ‘The Golden Rule of Parenting’ and treat your children how you like to be treated.
12.) Keep in mind that the person you are now isn’t the person you were when you first started out on your journey into adulthood. Expecting your young adult children to think and experience and process life and events the way that you do now is like expecting a newborn baby to be able to pick up a book and read it.
Remember, the voice of experience has an immense amount of wisdom to offer, but only if it also has the wisdom to know when to remain silent. ~L.R.Knost
I don’t want to be my children’s friend. I want to be their best friend (just like my mom and I have always been)…
“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” William Shakespeare
“Friendship is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words.” George Eliot
“It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us as the confident knowledge that they will help us.” Epicurus
“My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.” Henry Ford
“As a friend, you first give your understanding, then you try to understand.” Robert Brault
According to an informal friendship poll…
A friend is a person who smiles when they see you, every time, because they really like you.
A friend listens when you speak and speaks when they know you’re ready to listen.
Friends are people who challenge you, but never condemn you.
True friends stick by you even when whatever you’re dealing with isn’t their problem and doesn’t affect them personally.
A friend is always honest, even when being honest is hard.
A real friend knows when not to talk, just be there.
A real friend answers your phone call, every time, any time, day or night, no matter what.
True friends are real about their own struggles. They don’t act like they’re perfect. And that’s why you can be real with them and not have to act like you’re perfect, either.
A friend is someone you love to spend time with, someone you really enjoy and who enjoys you back.
A friend is someone who has time for your pain even when you’re kind of being a pain about it.
A good friend is kind and shares and you can totally relax with them.
Friends are people who you can be silly and goofy and dorky with one minute and who will hold you if you need to cry the next minute, and they don’t even have to know why.
A friend is someone who is always friendly and smiles a lot.
Friends are people who like you just the way you are, but still help you to be better.
A friend listens with empathy when you’ve messed up, speaks the truth in love, and offers to help you fix what needs to be fixed, no matter what it takes.
A real friend isn’t afraid to say hard things to you because they’ve already proven that they love you.
True friends don’t expect you to change to suit them. They accept you, period. But they’ll do whatever it takes to help you change what you want to change.
A friend is a friend all the time, even when you suck a little bit.
A true friend trusts you, even when you make mistakes, even when you fail them, even when you show up late to everything, they still trust you.
A friend loves at ALL times (and it shows!).
Friendship is about accepting who the other person is and not always having to agree with what they are doing, but loving them enough to tell them if we really believe they’re headed in the wrong direction.
A friend is someone you respect and who respects you.
Friendship isn’t about being in the right, it’s about being right with our friends.
A true friend always, always, always gives you the benefit of the doubt. They are willing, ready, and able to believe the best about you instead of assuming the worst.
A friend is someone you can trust.
A real friend is never afraid to come to you, and you’re never afraid to go to them, ever.
A friend is someone who’ll give you the cookie that wasn’t dropped on the floor, even if you wouldn’t know the difference.
A true friend is someone you can trust not to say something about you when you aren’t with them that they wouldn’t say when you are.
Friends are fair, but they’re not fair-weather friends, they’re always there.
True friends understand you even when you don’t understand yourself. They can do that because they’ve taken the time to get to know you through and through.
Real friends listen to your heart, not just your words.
A friend is always kind even when you don’t deserve kindness.
A friend is never, ever inconvenienced by you. Friendship isn’t about convenience, it’s about unconditional love, sacrifice, loyalty, and lots and lots of laughter.
Friends listen first and speak later.
A friend still sees your beauty even when the ugly in you is showing.
…and that’s exactly the kind of parent I want to be!
[Reprinted from Gentle Discipline: Tips, Tools, and Techniques available November 2013; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
I am not crafty AT ALL. Last year I tried to make these cute coffee bean candles for Christmas and somehow managed to set them on fire (Who knew coffee beans were so flammable?). One year I made a Christmas wreath for my sister-in-law and when I went to visit her months later she showed me a gorgeous wreath and told me how she’d received a hideous wreath from someone (she couldn’t remember who, lol) and had dismantled it to make the beauty hanging on her door.
But, all that said, I had no problem making these parenting tools without one. single. craft-aster!
For our Quiet Bags that keep everyone happy for car rides, in restaurants, at doctor appointments, etc, we made these little I-spy water jars with sparkly beads and buttons as fillers and then added tiny button hearts and butterflies and kittens and other things for my little ones to search and find. The key is to use things that will fit through the top of the bottle and don’t float, so we tested everything for size and dropped them in a cup of water to test buoyancy. (Great lessons, too!) We used small, round Sport Waterpods and added a bit of glitter just because my girls love the effect. Then we just hot glued the tops on to prevent spills…easy peasy!
We originally made colored rice I-spy bottles with squinkies, but since they can double as maracas they don’t make the best additions to our Quiet Bags! They’re really good calming tools for at home, though. Here’s a cool tutorial for making colored rice I-spy jars based on children’s picture books. Great for literacy, too!
Our Quiet Bags are filled with things I know my little ones like. I have a few Quiet Bags to rotate out so they won’t lose their novelty value. We don’t pull them out for regular daily use around the house for the same reason, but they are nice to have on hand for special circumstances like mommy being sick or super-important conference calls, etc. A special naptime Quiet Bag for older preschoolers to use while littler ones take naps is a great help, though, as well! Our bags and their contents have come from thrift stores, garage sales, clearance sales, and back-to-school sales. Anything can go inside~picture books, notepads and crayons, puzzles, bubbles, legos, felt boards, sticker books, small toys, etc~whatever quiet activities that you think will interest your child…easy peasy!
For meltdown moments, we made Calm-Me-Jars and Cozy Corners (Click here for ideas about how to use these when your little one needs some help calming down). Our Calm-Down-Jars are made from the small, round Coca-Cola plastic ornament jars sold around Christmas. They are super-resilient and have withstood almost a year of being used for bouncy balls, as bowling pins, for toddler teethers, etc, as well as for their intended use in helping to calm down a little one experiencing big emotions. We used warm water, dollar store glitter glue, and added more glitter and a tiny drop of food coloring (or not, depending on the effect we wanted). When we got the consistency we wanted, we just hot glued on the top to prevent spills…easy peasy!
A Cozy Corner can be as simple as a corner filled with colorful throw pillows, soft stuffed animals, favorite picture books, etc. Or, if you like, you can make this simple tent by following this easy tutorial. These areas also make awesome reading nooks when your little ones get a bit older!
A Time-Out Toy Box, for use with toys that just refuse to behave, can be made with anything from a cardboard box to a wooden crate to an actual toy box. (Click here for ideas about how to use the Time-Out Toy Box when toys get out of hand and your little one needs to let them know who’s the boss!) You and your little one can decorate your box together with markers or chalkboard paint or stickers…easy peasy!
Giant punch bag! Here’s a great idea for times when your little one needs a safe outlet for wrestling and wrangling and punching and kicking…well, you get the picture. (Click here for other ideas for helping your little one deal with aggression.) This punch bag/bean bag can be as big or little as you like and actually is filled with all those stuffed animals you’ve got lying around! I can’t even sew on a button, so my awesome mom with her magical sewing machine handles things like this for me, lol. Click here for a tutorial…not entirely easy peasy unless you have a mom with a magic machine like I do!
Sometimes a little fairy magic is all it takes to turn a bad day into a good one or to help a little one fall asleep. When your toddler/preschooler is a bit cranky, sloooww down, give lots of cuddles, listen, listen, listen, and ask if they need you to sprinkle some fairy dust on them to turn their frown upside down! For sleeping issues, try sprinkling a bit of fairy ‘sleeping’ dust on their bed and staying with your little one, softly humming, stroking their back, or just being there, quiet and reassuring, depending on their needs (they’ll let you know!) until they’re asleep. It’s typically the long, dark, lonely separation from mama causing the problem instead of a sleep issue, anyway! You can buy these here or, to make them yourself, go to Michaels and buy some cute little bottles and microfine glitter (You can find it next to the fabric paints and t-shirts instead of with the regular glitter, for some reason. Lol) and make your own magical fairy dust…super easy peasy!
But if the occasional monster in the closet or under the bed needs to be evicted, try reading a book like Go Away, Big Green Monster! and make your own ‘Monster-Away Spray,’ to send all the scary monsters packing. The ones we made didn’t match the colors in the book perfectly because we just used foam stickers and googlie eyes from our craft box and blue spray bottles from the bargain bin at the fabric store, but my girls were thrilled with them. We filled them with water (and added a little spritz of febreeze in my six-year-old’s bottle because, “Monsters can’t STAND flowers!”) and then Daddy and Big Brother took turns pretending to be monsters and ran away squealing from the girls when they got sprayed. Role-playing with children (and just playing with them, period!) is a powerful tool in helping them learn coping skills. Now, a bit of bedtime spritzing in closets and under beds is all it takes to make my girls feel confident that they’ve rousted the beasties so they can sleep in peace!
Don’t forget that parenting is about more than gentle discipline and guidance! It’s much more, actually. Childhood is our chance to pass along the things we love and that make life richer and happier to the next generation of people who will be world leaders, teachers, artists, missionaries, musicians, etc, as well as parents, themselves. Sharing a love of reading with our children is a precious gift, and it starts at home. Studies have shown that children who grow up with books in their homes are significantly more likely to graduate from university, too, so how about setting up a little home library? Just a few painted crates, a little clip-on lamp, and some comfy pillows are all it takes…easy peasy!
And for your littlest ones, a simple basket beside your chair makes a perfect ‘bookshelf’ for little hands to dig through and find a favorite book for you to read for the thousandth time! Remember, toddlers learn best from repetition …super easy peasy!
While your little one is making the transition from diapers to potty, you may find yourself spending lots of time hanging out in the ‘throne room’ reading them books. Here’s a cute little bookshelf for next to your little one’s potty made out of a $3.99 Ikea spice rack! Just mount it with a couple of screws, and you’re good to go…easy peasy!
Disclaimer: I strongly believe that the author of ‘Sit. Stay. Good Mom!’ inadvertently mischaracterizes the philosophies of the Resources for Infant Educarers foundation as well as its founder, Magda Gerber. If you’d like information about RIE, please visit Educarers.
In another blanket generalization (à la The Wall Street Journal’s ‘Superior’ essays), American parents were slammed in a New York Magazine article this week, accused of being over-involved, overly lenient, and raising “the most indulged young people in the history of the world,” (Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker ). Besides the obvious absurdity of painting an entire nation as diverse as the United States with a single broad and clumsily wielded brush, this article was also deeply demeaning right from the start with its title, Sit. Stay. Good Mom! American mothers are not female dogs, and that a widely read and respected magazine would publish such a thinly veiled reference to that characterization is insulting and unacceptable.
Beyond the title, though, there are disturbing issues within the article itself. Using Magda Gerber’s organization, Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) as a springboard, the author decries American parenting as “helicopter parenting” and indicates that taking classes in “underparenting” or “hands-off parenting” is needed as “corrective therapy.”
The author then goes on to share her experience in an RIE class of watching in amazement as her small daughter waited her turn for snack time. She then ruminates about how freely her daughter plays with her food and moves around during mealtime at home and marvels about the miracle she’s beholding in the RIE setting. First, people’s behavior tends to reflect their environment and most will act differently in a public setting than in the comfort and privacy of their own homes. Second, if the author wants to make mealtime manners a priority in her family, that is her choice. Other parents who choose to create an atmosphere of free exploration at mealtimes aren’t necessarily being indulgent. They may be intentionally allowing their child to take ownership of their body’s needs, consciously choosing to make mealtimes a learning sensory experience, or they may simply be a family that enjoys eating in a more relaxed, nonrestrictive environment.
The author goes on to share her discomfort at not stepping in to help her baby resolve a dispute over a toy, “RIE calls for letting kids resolve their own disputes (barring physical violence). ‘If every time adults jump in and bring in their version of what is right, the children learn either to depend on them or defy them,’” she quotes. While there is nothing wrong with taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to situations such as these, there is also nothing wrong with parents sharing “their version of what is right” if “their version” is a societal norm or a personal or cultural choice they choose to teach their child. Parents teaching and guiding their children is not helicopter parenting. It is parenting.
Next the author gives RIE’s take on responding to injuries, “RIE advises parents to give their kids a moment to recover on their own before swooping in with kisses and cuddles. It also discourages parents from saying ‘You’re okay’ or distracting children from their pain—my preferred technique is to grab a shiny toy and jiggle it in front of her—lest they learn that experiencing emotions is a bad thing.” Again, there is nothing wrong with taking a momentary pause to see if kisses and cuddles are warranted, but there is also nothing wrong with responding quickly to your child if you perceive a need. Assuring your little one that you are there when they need you, reassuring them that they are alright, and helping them cope with their pain, whether by distraction or kissing a boo-boo or putting on a magical band-aid, won’t teach them their emotions are bad. It will teach them that they aren’t alone in the world to cope with their emotions.
Then the author shares how she learned in the class that she shouldn’t “let my daughter use me as a jungle gym, even though she really, really wants to.” She talks about RIE’s discipline philosophy, “Set reasonable, consistent rules and stick to them even if they’re unpopular with those expected to abide by them.” Agreed! If the author chooses that as a boundary for her family, then setting and consistently and gently reinforcing that boundary is a healthy step for her and her child. (There’s that idea of parents teaching and guiding again!) But then she shares, “’It is not the best thing to try to keep your children happy all the time,’ writes Gerber. ‘That is not the way life is.’” True, life isn’t that way. And parents can’t always keep their children happy. Carseats alone make that impossible! But that doesn’t mean that parents can’t or shouldn’t try to make their children happy as much as possible within the boundaries they have chosen for their family. And I don’t believe that is what Magda Gerber intended to convey. The pursuit of happiness is an American ideal, not to mention a constitutionally guaranteed right, and parents actively helping their children to seek that ideal is a positive model for their children to follow on their own when they reach adulthood.
Finally, the author relates her attempt to rescue her baby who is “sitting precariously atop” a stair-climbing toy and having difficulty climbing down. “An RIE associate cuts me off when I reflexively move to intervene.” First, I have to say that, although I’m only 5’1” and barely top 100 lbs, I allow no one to stand between me and my child if I think my child needs me. I would rescue my child if I deemed it necessary, period. (As mentioned, though, I believe the choice of words here may mischaracterize not only this particular RIE associate’s action, which may have been more of a friendly suggestion rather than a “cut off,” but also the RIE philosophy itself.) Second, yes, encouraging children to try, letting them take risks, and allowing them the freedom to challenge themselves are all excellent ideas. But those objectives are not exclusive of a ready hand, an encouraging word, or even a rescue if a parent deems it necessary. Autonomy notwithstanding, we live in a relational world, and growing up with the assurance that we aren’t alone to face the challenges life throws at us is a healthy foundation from which to set forth and conquer our life’s goals.
It is important to emphasize here that, although I don’t teach RIE principles in my parenting workshops or follow them with my own children per se, I have a deep respect for Magda Gerber and the resources her foundation, RIE, offers parents. I believe this author took quotes out of context and chose syntax that incorrectly portrayed RIE as pushing parents aside in favor of children’s autonomy and independence and devaluing the parent/child relationship. I believe the tenets that RIE espouses of listening to our children and respecting their amazing capabilities are good and vital to healthy parent/child relationships. But I also believe that relationship comes first, and autonomy and independence spring forth from a strong and vibrant parent/child connection.
Perhaps, if American parenting has to be defined at all, it should be defined simply as freedom~freedom of choice, freedom of expression, freedom of individuality. If we stop pitting parents and nations against each other with negative comparisons, perhaps we will also have the freedom to learn from each other and grow as individuals, families, and global friends.
Dear Customer Service,
I think my computer needs professional help. I just don’t know what to do anymore. It won’t respond to me half of the time, and the other half its response is so slow it might as well not respond at all! I need help, and I don’t know where else to turn. Here’s the story:
I remember how excited I was when I first got my computer. I carefully cut the tape on the box, gently lifted it out, and gingerly settled it in the well-appointed and super organized office I’d had decorated and waiting for what seemed like forever.
Now what to do? I’d never owned a computer before and was so nervous I’d somehow break it. I searched through manuals and how-to’s for dummies, looking for tips from experts and guidance from other computer owners with years of experience. It was so frustrating because everyone seemed to have a different opinion about what to expect and what was important and how to handle all the hardware and software issues that were bound to crop up with computer ownership.
Over time, though, I got more comfortable in my new role as a computer owner. My tentative key tapping became more confident, and I operated my computer like a pro. But then minor irritations began to creep up. I’d input a command and have to wait for my computer to process before it responded, but why should I have to wait? I’d issued the same commands hundreds of times since my computer had arrived. Shouldn’t it obey instantly? I certainly thought so! So, I’d push the enter button a couple more times, and then a couple more, then some other buttons, and the darn thing would freeze up on me!!! Seriously?!?
I’m no push-over, believe me, and I wasn’t about to be manipulated by my own computer! So, I started unplugging it every time it froze. After a few minutes, I’d plug it back in again, but even after extending its time-out of the outlet to longer and longer periods, my computer was still giving me that ring of delayed obedience and then freezing when I pushed its buttons. So, I started giving it a gentle whack on its CPU. (No, I was not abusing it. I was just giving it a little tap to get its attention!) But nothing seemed to be working. I was still having to wait for it to process my commands, and it was actually getting worse!
Then my computer started popping up demands, right in front of what I was working on! ”Updates needed.” ”Virus software update available.” Me, me, me. I want. I want. I want. Isn’t it amazing how completely self-absorbed computers are? Didn’t my computer realize I had a schedule to keep? I had things that needed to get done, an agenda, a life! And on top of all that, I’d just purchased a new little laptop that needed my attention. Why couldn’t my computer understand that it just had to do what it was told and stop giving me a hard time?!? Selfish, that’s why!
Well, time went on and my computer kept up it’s delayed obedience and just kept escalating its constant demands with pop up after pop up after pop up. But I knew better than to give in. All it wanted was attention! So I alternated between time-out of the outlet and well-deserved whacks to the CPU, but all I got was slower and slower obedience, longer and longer freezes, and just general unresponsiveness.
I’ve tried to be a good computer owner, but I’m at the end of my tether. Please help!
Computers are designed to process input. Basically, that means you get out what you put in. That “demand for attention” is actually your computer communicating a need for input from you, whether it’s for an update or a virus scan or whatever it’s indicating it needs. If you meet it’s needs, that will not only stop the ”demands” but also free it up to run more smoothly and responsively for you. As far as the “delayed obedience,” that’s just how computers are built. It needs time to process your input so that it can respond appropriately. Pushing its buttons over and over is actually causing the freezing you’re concerned about, and unplugging your computer when it freezes just shuts it down right when it’s trying its hardest to work things out. Remember, interaction between owner and computer is the core of computer processing. Finally, stop “whacking” your computer. Call it what you want…hitting, tapping, popping, or whatever…it’s just causing internal damage and resulting in the very problems you’re trying to solve.
Shak N. Mihed
[Portions reprinted from Gentle Discipline: Tips, Tools, and Techniques by L.R.Knost available November 2013; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon.]
“Although the evidence against spanking is in the form of correlations (not direct causal proof), the effect is more robust than for the correlations that have served as the basis for other public health interventions, such as secondhand smoke and cancer, exposure to lead and IQ scores in children, and exposure to asbestos and laryngeal cancer.” (Scientific America)
Yes, you read that right. There is less evidence linking secondhand smoke to cancer, lead exposure to developmental delays in children, and asbestos to cancer than there is of the short and long-term detrimental effects of spanking. Study after study has confirmed that spanking (not just physical abuse, but any physical act of correction-smacking, hitting, swatting, slapping, paddling, switching, etc.) is directly linked to greater aggression and other behavioral issues, impaired cognitive development, and increased risk of depression and anxiety in childhood as well as long-term mental issues in adulthood. (See research here) And yet the American public is still reluctant to dismiss the physical punishment of children as an option for parents and school systems.
It is not unusual for public opinion to evolve slowly. Until recent years husbands hitting their spouses in the US was considered “reasonable chastisement of wives” and “a private family matter” by the courts and by law enforcement even though it has technically been against the law in all fifty states for decades. Now domestic violence in the US is viewed with outrage and abusers with disdain.
While the tide is ever-so-slowly turning regarding public opinion of the physical punishment of children, in excess of 80% of Americans still believe spanking is a necessary part of raising a child according to a survey cited by a UN report. And in the 19 US states where corporal punishment is still legal in the public school system, wooden paddles are used on children as young as preschool, and parents’ permission and/or notification is not even required. By contrast, in every branch of the US military and in the US penal system, physical punishment has long been outlawed as it was deemed ‘cruel and unusual’ and a ’use of excessive force.’
Clearly there is a disconnect when it comes to physical punishment of the most vulnerable and defenseless of our citizens, our children. Even in the face of study after study detailing the detrimental effects of physical punishment on young children, more than 90% of American parents still admit to spanking their toddlers and preschoolers. The responses to a recently released study linking a significantly increased risk of mental illness in adulthood to being spanked as a child point to some possible reasons for that dichotomy:
- ”I was spanked, and I turned out okay.” Not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer, but why take the risk?
- “I don’t want to raise a rotten brat!” Studies link spanking to increased aggression and other behavioral issues, not decreased.
- “I spank my kids because the Bible commands me to.” Spanking is not one of the Ten Commandments. (See here)
- “They’re my kids, and nobody has the right to tell me how to raise them!” Our laws are civil agreements as to what is and is not acceptable in our society. We once agreed that slavery was acceptable. Now we know better, and our laws reflect that. As research continues to reveal the detrimental effects of spanking, public opinion will begin to shift and our laws will naturally follow suit. It is the way of a democratic society.
- ”Nothing else works!” Thoughtful, proactive parenting works. Here are some positive parenting ideas to try.
There is no doubt that the vast majority of parents not only deeply love their children, but are also making the best parenting decisions they know how to with the information and experiences they have to work with. That is why it is vital that the discussion and flow of information remain open and civil when it comes to spanking. Change does not come easily, but to happen at all it must have an atmosphere of honest, open communication in which to blossom.
We’ve been trying out some Pinterest ideas and creating a few of our own for the 4th and thought we’d share!
Here are our very own fruit gummie snacks made from jello and water. They taste like gummies. They feel like gummies. They have lots of cool shapes like gummies. But they don’t have HFCS like gummies!
And, of course, while we were playing with making fruit gummies we had to try out other shapes besides stars. We used our Ikea ice trays to make gummie dolphins, flowers, and hearts. You can find the recipe to make these super easy, clearly impossible to ruin (otherwise I would have!), gummies here.
We made popsicle stick flags and thumbprint flags and my little caboose created her own ‘free flying’ flag.
We’re going to be making these cute pinwheels for the 4th in lieu of sparklers for our little ones who are afraid of them. And to protect our braver little ones who want to try out the sparklers we’re cutting holes in red cups for arm shields as suggested by this brilliant mama.
To kick off our 4th of July week, we made these yummy brownies and dusted them with powdered sugar and topped them with red, white, and blue sprinkles. And for the 4th we’re freezing fruit punch (red), tropical punch (blue), and island punch (white) ice cubes and pouring sprite over them for some super festive drinks and we’re layering them into these bomb pops, too!
I found this awesome site that has a ton of printables for the 4th of July like this cool soda can plane, cupcake toppers, invitations, coloring sheets, and more!
Happy July 4th from our family to yours!!!
Those old psychologists, Newton and Einstein, sure did have human nature figured out, didn’t they?
Wait. What? Psychologists? I thought Newton and Einstein were physicists!
Well, yes, they were. But since when haven’t humans been bound by the laws of the universe? Take a look:
Newton’s Third Law of Motion…Every action has an equal and opposite reaction…i.e. “If you pull me, I’ll pull back. If you push me, I’ll push back.”
Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation…Attraction between bodies…i.e. “We are drawn toward what invites us. If you lead me, I will follow.”
Sounds simple enough. Now for a harder one:
Einstein’s Theory of Relativity… The interactions of bodies are due to the influence of bodies (relative to one another) on the geometry (curvature, perspective) of space-time…i.e. “What is true is true, but what is perceived to be true depends upon where you are when you look at it. Perception, then, affects reality because we act on our perception of reality, not reality itself. Our action then sets in motion a new reality. It is impossible to separate perceived reality from absolute reality because the two become one through symbiosis.”
Whew. Heavy stuff. Okay, this one requires a bit more explanation. Take it away, Einstein!
“When you sit with a nice girl for two hours, you think it’s only a minute. But when you sit on a hot stove for a minute, you think it’s two hours. That’s relativity.”
Thank you, Professor Einstein! So, what you’re saying is that time did not change, the perception of time changed, right? And when you then act on that perception, in this case perhaps by being late for an appointment because you’ve miscalculated the time with the nice girl, your lateness changes actual reality by either making someone else wait or having to reschedule the appointment or something along those lines?
“Time and space and gravitation have no separate existence from matter.”
Got it. So we (are) matter, bound by time, living in space, and subject to gravity. Everything affects everything else’s reality, including our perceptions of reality, even if they’re skewed. Thank you for your time! (Haha, a little relativity humor for you there, Professor.)
Soooo…how does all of that apply to parenting? Well, clearly, a parent’s perception of reality determines how they react to their child, thus determining their child’s reality. Then their child’s own perception of that reality determines their response to their parent which in turn determines…hmmm. That’s getting a bit confusing. Let’s look at some examples.
To one parent, a baby’s cries in the night are perceived as an attempt to manipulate.
To another parent, a baby’s cries in the night are perceived as an expression of need.
In each case, the parents’ perception will determine their response to their baby which, in turn, will impact the reality the baby will learn about the world.
In the case of the parent who perceives that the baby’s cries are manipulative, the parent may not respond to the baby. The baby, who has no perception of time or object permanence, then experiences reality with the perception that he will be alone forever. If that perception of reality is reinforced night after night, that may affect the baby’s perception of the world as an unstable reality which may, in turn, affect the baby’s behavior as he grows which will then impact his parents’ response, etc.
To one parent, a tantrum is a child lashing out in anger at not getting her own way.
To another parent, a tantrum is a cry for help in coping with big emotions.
In the case of the parent who perceives the tantrum as a cry for help, the parent may offer the child a hug or a touch or simply their presence to help her calm down, and then the parent may help the child process the emotions that brought on the meltdown. The child, who may be too young to articulate or even understand her feelings, may then experience reality as a safe place to grow and learn which, in turn, may influence her overall behavior which will then impact her parents’ response, etc.
To one parent, tattling is an annoying habit designed to get another child in trouble or just to get attention.
To another parent, tattling is an attempt to get help in coping with a situation the child doesn’t know how to handle.
In the case of the parent who perceives the tattling as an attempt to get help, the parent may listen and offer suggestions or may intervene, again based on the child’s relayed perception of the conflict and the parent’s received perception of the conflict. The child may then perceive that she is not alone to fight her battles in the world which, in turn, may influence her to more readily seek help when in doubt or in need which may cause others to perceive that she is not an easy target for bullying or victimization, etc.
In all of these cases and more, the parents’ perceptions influence their own responses which then sets off a chain of reactions that influences the actual reality that the parent and child experience.
In Einstein’s Theory of Relativity this kind of reactionary chain of events is referred to as the space-time continuum…one thing leading to another to another to another.
But the good news is that there is a huge difference between humans and celestial bodies besides just mass. We have the advantage in the universe because we have consciousness. We can step out of the continuum and examine our path and make intentional changes to positively affect our reality. As parents, when we take the time and effort to determine our responses with intention instead of mindlessly reacting, we also positively affect our children’s reality and, thus, their future.
Einstein was very aware of our human capacity to redirect our own continuum. He said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
In other words, when we face problems and challenges, continuing with the same fruitless patterns, the same thoughtless responses, the same ineffective reactions that brought us to that point is…well, pointless! And so, in parenting, when we are confronted with behavioral issues and our modus operandi (present method of parenting) isn’t working, we don’t have to continue in that continuum. We can step back, examine our perceptions and actions and intentions, and make whatever changes are necessary to redirect ourselves and lead our children down a happier, more peaceful, more successful path.