How To Clean House with A Toddler (And Have Fun Doing It)

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I have an album on Facebook called “Let me help you, mommy!” and, well you guessed it, it’s not really about my toddler helping me ;). Every now and then the mess he manages to create is so epic, I have to take a picture, so I can shame him at his 18th birthday party! Just kidding. Or not. ūüėČ

He gets to make mess and I get to clean up. But I don’t want this to be like that forever. You know, one day he will have a dorm room and I don’t want him to be that messy, that even his roommates would call and beg me to come and¬†pick up after him! I thought I should start teaching him how to arrange his toys till he still thinks it’s all part of the fun. So I make him a part of the cleaning process. I don’t¬†leave clean up or putting toys and books away for the time he’s asleep. I clean up with him. He’s watching and lately he started helping me. He hands me things, puts books in the bookcase, stuffs kitchen towels back in the drawer. No, he can’t fold towels and the¬†books are not arranged very well, but I have a feeling that he’s doing a much better job than even some teenagers.

We turned the tidying into a game, that develops mathematical thinking and expands vocabulary!

While we are clearing up mess, we pick up things and talk about them (ok ok, I do the talking). We count toys and books that are being put away, another time we pick them by size – I take the big ones, he takes the small ones. Another time, we arrange toys by colour. Or by shape (is it just our house, or does your child have more than 4 balls too?). There are limitless variations to the game and if you make it part of play early enough, there is¬†a chance your child will connect cleaning with play. Priceless, if you ask me! Maybe, just maybe, in some parallel crazy universe, when playing this game, you will wish there were more things to mess up, so you can play longer… no… I didn’t think so either. Just an attempt at a joke.

Happy cleaning!

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Raising a Multilingual Baby

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I’m sure this happens to all mothers (and fathers) on a regular basis (since we were pregnant, as far as I can recall): a perfect stranger tells you how to raise your child…

I often hear people’s opinion on which language I shall speak to my own child! “Don’t you think we should understand what you’re telling your child?” Well, sure. In case you are included in our conversation. Otherwise, I am speaking to my baby. Stop listening. Am I too harsh? I think somebody telling me how to teach my baby to speak is harsh!

I would like my baby to understand his own family – I am Czech and most of my family doesn’t speak or even understand English. My husband is Indian and most of the elders in his family speak Hindi. And me and him communicate mostly in English (if you don’t count that hybrid language of ours as a separate newly invented tongue:). So if we want our child to speak to all his relatives, he will have to learn our native languages. And English will come naturally, it is all around him including our home. Are you skeptical, just like that lady know-it-all in grocery store? How did you learn your language? By listening and looking around! Now it makes sense, doesn’t it?

I speak to Aditya exclusively in Czech, even in public. I don’t want to make exceptions, because then they become a habit. If somebody speaks to the baby or me in English, then of course, I reply in English. The rest is between my baby and me. My husband had to be reminded at the beginning, that he should speak to him in Hindi – he felt like I should understand everything he says. Now he gets it and actually enjoys speaking to Aditya in his native language. And I am learning Hindi like never before! See, two pupils instead of one;)

I think it is important that if a family lives in a foreign country, parents speak to their children in their native language. Around myself I see stories of regret:

One of my friend’s parents came to America from Cambodia and wished for their two daughters to speak good English, fluently and without an accent like themselves. Their daughters have been born here and only learnt English. When they were teenagers, the parents wished they spoke Cambodian at least a little, so they signed them up for classes – they still don’t speak almost any Cambodian. Every Sunday these two daughters join their parents for a lunch. They don’t¬†talk very much – the daughters don’t understand everything their own parents say and the parents’ English isn’t good enough that they would understand everything their daughters talk about…

And another story: My grandmother’s parents worked for a few years in Canada where they learnt English. When they had an argument, they fought in English, so their daughter (grandma) wouldn’t understand. Until today she’s sorry they didn’t teach her English. She feels like her opportunities in life could have been different.

And then I see stories of success:

A Slovak¬†friend living in India has two kids. They both speak English, Hindi and Slovak without problems. I saw their younger one when she was learning to speak. She had a cup of tea and told her mother in Slovak “hot, hot”, but her mother didn’t hear her at that moment, so she turned to her father and repeated in Hindi “hot”. Even at that age she already knew which language to use while communicating with her parents! (This is to those who say, that my child will be ‘confused’.)

I grew up in Czechoslovakia, which is now separated into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.¬†Each of the¬†countries, even in union, used a different language (Czech and Slovak). Growing up, we spoke both languages. They were all around, TV was bilingual. We never considered ourselves bilingual, now I know we were, because kids who grew up in Czech Republic after the separation, don’t understand Slovak well anymore. It was easy and natural that we acquired both languages.

Babies are little geniuses when it comes to speaking. If you start early, they soak up all you offer!

There are, however two different approaches to raising bilingual/ multilingual children. You either are or are not a native speaker of the second language you want to teach your child. You can teach your child a language that is not your native, your child can actually learn a language that you don’t even speak. It’s all about the approach, but I have to stress here, if you are planning to raise your child bilingual, you will be more successful with a plan.

There are several myths about bilingualism, let’s have a look at some.

A child will become “confused” and mix languages if he learns more than one at a time.
>> Mixing is normal, just like kids like to mix games, stories and food, they will be mixing languages if they know more than one. This can actually add to their vocabulary later in life and it will definitely amplify their fantasy!

Bilingualism leads to language delay.
>> This¬†was one I was told most about, but I never really worried. It seems like kids need to figure things out before they try them and sometimes they take longer¬†(some kids learn to walk by trying and falling, some kids take more time and then all of a sudden start cruising along furniture; same applies to learning other things including language). Maybe your child won’t say much at¬†first and then just spit out a whole sentence, who knows. And he doesn’t even have to be bilingual. Anyway, no scientific research actually confirms that bilingualism leads to language delay.

You have to be fluent in languages you’re trying to teach your children.
>> Even monolingual parents can raise their child bilingual. You can hire a foreign nanny, enroll them in a language program or learn a new language along with them. The key is consistency and commitment (consistency is the main reason I speak to my child Czech in nearly ANY situation).

Children just absorb language passively.
>> This is a dangerous myth, if you are really trying to teach your child a different language. To learn a language fluently, brain needs a stimulating environment, so just playing French radio will not “teach” your child French. How many times have you encountered an expat living in a foreign country for years and still barely understanding the native language? A simple immersion doesn’t mean that somebody will learn a language. Participation in the language is stimulating and only then appropriate synapses in brain can be formed.

If a child is not very intelligent, he cannot speak more languages.
>> A baby’s brain is created to learn ANY language in the world and learn multiple languages if you start early and right.

If a child doesn’t speak English by kindergarten, she or he will have difficulty at school and will have problems to read.
>> Children take much less effort to learn new things, including languages, than adults. While it is best teaching language skills before the age of 3, children are capable to adapt and learn languages well beyond 5 years of age. At that time it might be more dangerous letting your child concentrate on one language only (the official school language) and not supporting vocabulary development of the other languages your child was speaking and hearing until then.

It sounds like it¬†is no easy feat to teach your child multiple languages, but don’t be hard on yourself. Think of ¬†a plan and then just flow with it. Remember, you need to work smarter, not harder – it takes a village. Find a foreign language play group, hire a foreign nanny or enroll into a childcare facility that has foreign language programs or has foreign language speaking teachers.

Make it a point to get together with your foreign friends more often and let them talk to your child in their language. Let their children play with your child, they will be learning without even knowing it. Employ your language-talented family members for babysitting or find some smart programs that help children acquire richer vocabulary.

One such program, that we’re using at home, is Little Reader – your child can learn vocabulary in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Thai or Chinese (traditional or simplified), other language versions will be available with time. Although this program is made to teach children read, smaller kids will still benefit by learning new vocabulary (and learning a new language if you opt for non-English version).

What do you think? Are you going to try speaking another language at home or send your child to a language class? Give it a go, you can’t turn back time!

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Is My Baby Right-handed or Left-handed? Is Laterality Strictly Hand-related?

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I remember the joy when my son clutched a toy for the very first time. My baby can hold a toy! “Oh wait”, said the voice of anxiety in the mommy head. “Is he right-handed or left handed?” “Come on, it’s too early to tell”, said another voice (I’d like to believe it was the voice of wisdom. Yep, it’s still somewhere there in the mommy brain.)
Of course it was waaaay too early to tell, but as a parent, isn’t it one of the things you’re asking too? My son is now 14 months old. He can hold things in both hands, he can pass things from one hand to another. Yet it’s still too early to tell. And is it that important? Are you going to love your child less if he’s left-handed? Or if you’re left-handed, are you going to like a righty less? Or are you secretly hoping, he or she will be left-handed – a hidden genius and rugged artist with the wildest imagination? Sometimes we just wave the hand and say ‘We parents worry too much.’
Not until the age of 3-4 (some sources say 2-3, as always, babies are individualities) can we talk about absolute laterality. Once babies start grabbing things, they may prefer one hand over the other. But before the age of 1 they actually should be using both hands and experimenting with both parts of their body equally. If they have very strict preference at this age, it could be because the parents hand them objects into one hand only; then it’s good to switch the hands here and there. If this is not the case, it’s good to check (preferably with assistance of a pediatrician) for a possible muscle weakness or underdevelopment.
When talking about laterality, most people think about hands first. But laterality refers to a preference for a whole body side. Humans’ ear and eye laterality should be ideally identical with hand laterality. If it’s not, it could lead to learning problems in the future – it may be crucial in the way a child processes information. So as we, parents, anxiously watch for the “handedness”, we should watch for possible signs where a child is using one eye or ear more when forced to choose.
Breastfed babies are in a slight advantage when it comes to eye and ear stimulation – they get usually fed from both breasts, so primary sound and vision stimulation changes with each breast. Bottle-fed babies tend to be held in the same position when being fed. If you have a bottle-fed baby, you might try to stimulate him in different positions.
The same applies if your diaper changing station is by the wall with a parent changing always from one side. You might consider either changing the side with each diaper change or, which is even better for you and the baby, move the table so the baby’s feet are towards your body and you look at your baby from above. This is by the way the most preferred diaper changing position in Motessori-style upbringing.

How to support muscle development in both hands? Children as young as 10 months can be handed crayons and showed, how to use them on paper. Don’t expect any miracles, your baby will need a few sessions to figure out things (and you’ll need a bit of patience trying to stop her eating the crayons:) ), but you can start with drawing some simple shapes, letting them scribble over them and filling them with different colours. Describe what you’re doing and you have just developed an educational game! Example:
Look, I’m drawing a blue square! Will you help me colour it? Now we’re making a red circle.
You can even make it a pre-diner game when one partner is preparing the meal and the rest of the family is waiting at the table (and you have a brand new family ritual!). While ambidexterity (equal skills with both hands) is very rare, children are natural learners and using both hands for easier tasks is a game for them, so even older children can take part and try drawing the same easy shape with each hand taking turns.

I like these triangular crayons ¬†for the first experiments – they don’t roll away, are non-toxic AND washable. Washable is important. Mark my words…

Just remember – we all are unique and possess individual nervous systems – you cannot change your baby’s laterality and you SHOULDN’T try.

 

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links (at no extra cost to you). Thank you for your support by reading and commenting ūüôā

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DIY Infant Stimulation Mobile

This post contains an affiliate link to Brillkids.com.

When I was pregnant, I was thinking “I will make so many things for the baby! Toys, blanket, clothes! I was always good with crafts, I can do this!”
Dear momma-to-be. It’s not that easy. If you still have time, work on your crafts before your baby arrives! I mean it. Once your little monkey makes her way to this world, your mind will be set on a million things, but baby DIYs. I still have a crochet half-blanket somewhere, I don’t think I will finish it unless I decide to make it for someone else’s baby in the future:)

But there IS light (at the end of the tunnel? Eh, I’d say more like a skylight on the way:). Aditya is really enjoying his tummy time and spends more time in his baby gym without me having to hand him toys or dangle play-stuff above his head, so I decided to make him a few mobiles while he was at (baby)work. Yes, not just one mobile. This baby gets bored so easily, so I thought if I’m able to finish a few of them, I can rotate them throughout the house to keep him entertained. So there will be more DIY mobiles on the way:)))

This one is for the smallest babies and I wish I made it when he was really tiny. He enjoys it anyway, but I recommend this as one of the very first mobiles for a baby. The mobile is Montessori inspired and covers the principles of many early education methods. There are lots of ways you can modify and customize your mobile. I didn’t use anybody else’s instructions, so I had to figure out some things and kinks along the way, but I hope my half-baked instructions will help you or at least inspire you!

Here are the things I used:

  • black and white printouts (I used Infant Stimulation cards¬†from BrillKids)
  • construction paper (you won’t see it in the picture though, I couldn’t find any in the house, but I found 5 non-winning lottery tickets… don’t ask… and used them instead)
  • glue
  • scissors
  • thin ribbon
  • wooden sticks (I used skewers)
  • steel wire (not pictured)

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There was¬†a small change along the way: the wooden skewers didn’t work very well, so I changed them for a WIRE.

First I cut out the shapes I selected and glued them onto the cardstock (non-winning tickets, I mean;))) and then made a hole in the middle to pull a piece of ribbon through. I made a little loop at the end – this is how you will hang the pictures. You can tie them directly to your mobile base, but I wanted to make them interchangeable and use different pictures after a week.

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The I made a base with wire – from the top: a large hook (to hang it wherever you fancy), one wire arm – looks like an arch with a loop in the middle and on each end), loop to hang both arms above each other and the second arm – same arch with a loop in the middle and on each end.

You will want the two arms to form a cross, so the mobile’s pictures are spread out evenly.

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Make hooks to add at each arm’s end and one in the middle:

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Hang your pictures and voila!

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I will be delighted if you share your mobile ideas with me! And as promised, when I have time, I will post other mobiles.

This post contains an affiliate link to Brillkids.com.

 

The Day I Disagreed With Our Pediatrician

I am a self proclaimed Amazon addict:) This post contains an affiliate link to Amazon.com and Brillkids.com.

During our first visit to pediatrician, when our son was 4 days old, I asked the doctor: “What shall we do with the baby – how should we stimulate him? What can we teach him?”
And the doc said: “Nothing really. All you can do the first three months is to watch him eat and sleep. Babies this small don’t do anything.”
When we came home, me and my husband were feeling a bit let down. “Nothing? Really? So during pregnancy we were trying to play games and connect with the unborn baby and now for thee months NOTHING?”
When I was expecting this little boy, I found a beautiful book by Deepak Chopra – Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives.

Chopra gives such a sweet ‘recipe’ to bonding with your baby before you even meet him or her, it’s impossible that all ends (or gets interrupted) at birth. I could feel him kicking, I could feel him respond to my touch – in my belly. So now when he is finally here, we do nothing?
I turned to Google (yes, I am a self-proclaimed Google and Amazon addict) and found wonderful Infant Stimulation cards – black and white pictures you can use from birth to stimulate your baby’s vision and brain development. I printed them and started showing then to Aditya at about 2 weeks old. I could see him trying to focus his eyes, I could see him trying to follow the pictures when they moved. It was all slow and very subtle, but then at about 1-1.5 months old he started wiggling when he saw the pictures. He would first stare and soak a picture in, when wiggle as if saying ‘next please’ and then focus on the next one I showed him. Now at 4 months we have a few different booklets including black & white & red cards and they have proven not only to be an educational toy, but also a great distraction tool then he’s fussy or bored.
Since then I have discovered a TON of great tools and toys and I will share them, so in case you’re still waiting to meet your miraculous baby or you’re at home “stuck” with a bundle only a few days/ weeks old, you can start playing games to boost your baby’s development.

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Other things they suggest you can do with your teeny tiny little baby:

  • play music
  • talk and sing
  • massage baby every day
  • show and read him/ her books
  • and, of course, play with your baby

Our days were not filled with watching the baby, but with doing lots of new activities every time he was awake and attentive (probably at that very little age it was all more stimulating for mummy and daddy, but we learned lots of things and created some little rituals that are now a natural part of our life with not-so-little-anymore baby).

And yes – you will spend LOTS OF TIME watching your little one feeding and sleeping, but it totally doesn’t end there!

 

This post contains affiliate links from Amazon.com and Brillkids.com. I never link to products I would not recommend based on personal use or products I believe are not healthy/ eco friendly/ ethical.