Tag Archives: Child-Led

Advice for new Parents

I’ve just read this post by Mamasaurus and it reminded me of the advice I wrote for a friend of mine expecting her first baby. I am by no means an expert, but these were things I found useful (and she didn’t mind me writing this for her…)

1. Ignore all advice. Except this one on ignoring advice 😆 Every baby is different and you will be the number one expert on everything to do with your baby (Daddy too, but you most of all). What worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you. It’s nice to get ideas, it’s nice to talk to other people and it’s good to ask for advice when you need it. But don’t feel obliged to follow anything, trust your instincts and definitely ignore well-meaning but unsolicited advice – it’s nice but it’s usually not useful.

2. Don’t stress breastfeeding. Definitely try it, persevere if it’s something you really want to do, there are breastfeeding peer support groups etc and plenty of help. It’s not easy. But if you don’t want to, can’t for any reason or just don’t like it (like I didn’t) then don’t stress it. A happy mummy is better for baby than breast milk. If it comes easily and naturally, enjoy it – no sterilising, no bottles to carry around etc.

3. Slings are fab. A stretchy wrap sling is best for a newborn – for example a Moby or a Close Carrier.  Certain structured carriers are not good for babies (they hang by their crotch, rather than being supported by their bottom). A stretchy wrap snuggles baby and allows you freedom to do other things. I never had one with MG but did with DG and it was definitely essential with two: MG in a buggy, DG in the sling. But with one, it saves having to always take a buggy out, if you just want to go for a walk etc. Also apparently you can breastfeed in them, but I know nothing about that. But I definitely recommend. It’s lovely being close to baby but also having hands free to read a book or make lunch…

4. A digital ear thermometer – definitely an essential. Much quicker and non-obtrusive than other thermometers. They’re £30-£40 but well worth it for the peace of mind. I got one when MG was born and it’s still on the first set of batteries. On a similar note, newborns should never have a fever. If an under 8-week old has a fever (over 38C or 37.5C depending on what you read) then take them to the GP immediately, out of hours if necessary. It happened to me with DG at 5 weeks and a friend with her 2nd baby at 3 weeks. Both of us didn’t think it was important, both of us ended up in hospital with the babies. In both cases it was viral meningitis, of the kind that is not dangerous but as it takes a test of spinal fluid to find out, it’s treated aggressively to be on the safe side. In our cases, the babies would have recovered and didn’t need to be in hospital, but it’s best to be safe.

5. A baby gym – essential to leave baby lying under so you can do other things like go to the toilet, or eat! Any will do, I had a plastic 2nd hand one that did fine for both girls but there are also lovely fabric or wooden ones. Basically arches with things hanging down for babies to look at and to reach for when they get bigger. They only last until they start crawling (from 8 months ish) so not worth spending a fortune on. NCT sales are good for picking up 2nd hand ones.

6. Nearly New Sales – search online for NCT nearly new sales. They are fab for picking up bits and pieces that are “nearly new” for very little. I’m now selling more than buying at my local one but have got a lot of bargains at them.

7. Visitors in the early days / weeks / months – let them do things for you. I know it’s hard, I never managed it, but especially with baby’s grandparents, let them cook and clean and do your clothes washing and get their own cups of tea. You and baby are the most important, you need time to get to know each other in the early weeks too. If you don’t feel like visitors, don’t have them. Concentrate on you and baby. The house can stay a mess. You can live in PJs. On a similar note, preparing easy to cook meals for the freezer before baby arrives is good, or live on microwave meals for a bit if you need to! Let your friends come round and cook for you at your house. Let yourself be looked after, you have the baby to look after and nothing else matters when they are tiny and helpless.

8. Routines and baby books – your baby won’t have read the book, it won’t do what the book says it should. Every baby is different, sometimes you get one that fits one book, sometimes one that fits another, more often than not they don’t fit any recommended routine. Sleeping through is a myth – tiny babies have tiny tummies, they can’t eat enough to keep them for 12 hours. If they’re feeding every 2 hours, don’t stress it. It will change. A 4 hourly routine sounds great, but if you’re trying to get baby to stop crying for 2 of those hours then it’s not worth it. I managed to get MG into a 4 hour feeding routine, but she took an hour to take a bottle so night feedings were hellishly long. DG I never bothered with any routine. She fed every 2 hours but took 10 minutes so night feeds were no trouble. DG settled into a day-night routine in about 8-12 weeks, the same as MG but without me trying to enforce a routine. Having tried both ways, baby-led was much easier. But then DG was also a much more laid back baby. So back to my first bit of advice – ignore other people’s advice! :-)

9. You don’t need to buy everything that the lists tell you to buy – most lists are written by people who want to sell you stuff! This is a good list, but again you don’t need everything: The List

10. If you haven’t already, join the Boots advantage card and sign up for Parenting Club – the changing bag that you get free with a pack of nappies is the only changing bag you need. You could spend a fortune on them if you like, but really this free bag is a great size, has enough compartments and has a good changing mat in a bag, will hang over a buggy’s handles etc.

11. Did I mention ignoring other people’s advice? 😆

So what advice would you have given? It would be lovely if you could comment with any advice you would add, or take away… 🙂

Timothy Pope, Timothy Pope…

Yesterday evening MG found a cardboard tube and pretended it was a telescope, which led to reading Shark in the Dark by Nick Sharratt for the final bedtime story. “I want to paint my telescope” announces MG. Of course, I say, we’ll do that tomorrow…

So, as soon as she’s awake in the morning: “Can I paint my telescope? I need blue and yellow paint.” Ad nauseum, until I give in (about three minutes later, before we’ve even had breakfast…)

We have a messy art cupboard in the kitchen full of paints, paper and related paraphernalia. That “messy” belongs with “art”, not “cupboard”; it’s probably the tidiest part of the house at the moment. Generally there are things stacked in front of the cupboard door, so that DG can’t help herself to the paints 🙂

MG had her cardboard tube, so of course we had to find one for DG. Blue and Yellow were requested, so that’s 4 paint pots: blue and yellow for MG; blue and yellow for DG…

DG prefered painting on paper, and soon smeared her hands everywhere (she’s left-handed, hence the brush is in her dominant hand: I know she’s a toddler and it’s too early to tell etc but she’s been strongly left-handed from around 10 months old much like MG has been strongly right-handed from around 10 months old…)

MG painted her “telescope” to be like the one in the book, and then painted an empty milk carton before moving onto mixing paints and creating these lovely caterpillars…

…that ended up being smeared onto MG’s hands shortly after I took the picture. The girls were in a tactile painting mood today. Mess turned into running to the sink to wash hands (and bodies); then paint pots and brushes. And when all had finished, it was time for a bath 😆

I’ve recently discovered Amber Dusick’s Parenting with Crappy Pictures blog. This post on art is so true for this household; we invariably end up in scenario two…

Outdoor Painting

Reading this post on Putti Prapancha reminded me that I set up something similar with MG and DG a few weeks back – and it’s about time I posted about the children on this blog!

For a change, I managed to set up whilst MG and DG were amusing themselves elsewhere (usually they help). Firstly I laid out three long strips of easel roll paper, weighted them down with bricks due to the wind and took the tops off a set of six watercolour tubes (from Poundland). I managed to choose a fairly dull and windy day (British summer!) which meant I had to use a few bricks to keep the paper from flying off.

Once the girls had started, it became apparent that two strips of paper were more than enough, so I removed one. I tried not to influence their painting but they worked out to use their feet and hands fairly quickly!

Later water became involved, to spread the thick paint around more (and mix all the colours). Most of the colours other than black had been used up at this point.

Later still sand became involved, being scattered over the wet patches of the paper – and the water and paint were added to sand on the patio too! Once the paint ran out, I whisked the girls into the bath and hung up the painted strips to dry – the wetness of the paper caused it to tear in places but the wind dried it quickly.

The end result isn’t pretty, but the girls had a great time painting (and then playing in the bath). Next time I think I’ll limit the colours available for them and probably offer acrylic paints instead of watercolour tubes to get a better spread of colours.

On Schooling

It is difficult to be unbiased. I was good at exams, so school wasn’t a problem for me, and I was lucky I was never bullied considering my personality but looking back I can’t see what I really learned from the schooling I was forced through. I knew most things from primary school from having older siblings – I have memories of lessons where I’d be whispering answers into a friend’s ear (I never spoke at primary school) because I knew it. At secondary school I was good at what I liked and rubbish at what I didn’t like because I didn’t work hard, I wasn’t interested. I was good at swotting up for exams and passing things. I have done loads of complex subjects at degree level at both bricks and mortar university and Open University and I can’t remember any of it – looking back at old work is like reading something in an ancient lost language. So, in retrospect, schooling was fairly pointless and irrelevant to my life. Anything I have been interested in I’ve read up on, “played” with and learnt because I wanted to. I needn’t have ever finished my degree with OU other than feeling I needed to prove I am degree educated, as I got through my working life from what I knew and not from what I learnt once and forgot.

So yes, I am biased. In retrospect, and only after reading several books that got me to re-examine my education experience. My views on schooling are coloured by the writings of John Holt; John Taylor Gatto; Maria Montessori (although I need to read her actual works rather than interpretations of it); books on Home Ed; my local Home Ed community; TED talks from Sugata Mitra, Gever Tulley and others; I’m starting to read Alfie Kohn, Margaret Donaldson, Ivan Illich; blogs of Montessori home educators (mostly US); blogs from UK home edders; Home Ed and Montessori mail groups… I read to my interest, and my interest is away from the mass schooling system.

So, I do feel, given my feelings on schooling and my realisation that actually I didn’t get much out of it either that I should choose an alternative for my girls, that I should give them different opportunities to become the best adults they can be. Everyone is different, and I don’t believe that people who send their children to school are wrong or not giving their children a good education or are not engaged parents who have thought through the options and are giving their children the best education. But for me, I just have this niggling feeling that school isn’t the right place.

But MG talks about school all the time, she’s so excited about going, she wants to be at school. She definitely doesn’t get that from me! So, if I “follow the child” which is my ultimate aim (I’m not there yet, I try…) then school it is, because that’s her choice. And I remind myself that I am an engaged parent, I am an interested parent, I will have more time with her when she’s at school and I’m not working than I did with three days a week at nursery, all year round. Not to mention how lucky we are to live where we live, with the primary school that we have… So I shall just have my doubts and niggles, which I have to keep quiet around MG and DG, and just be the best parent I can be.

Here Be Dragons

Over the last fortnight, MG has watched How To Train Your Dragon four times. This might be why I have dragons on the brain, but in this post I mean it as a journey into the unknown – blogging, working towards being a stay-at-home-mum, trying to be child-led and discovering that I have to throw away a lot of what I think almost daily in the process.

I play with computers, there have been computers in my life since I was eight – which in the early 1980’s was not the norm. I potter about online and get most of my general knowledge from the internet now – I have rarely ever read newspapers and I barely watch television (apart from CBeebies, and a selection of programmes chosen by MG) these days. And yet, I like natural toys. I don’t see why small children need to be exposed to computers when my generation didn’t have them, but we still grew up to work in IT. I like rag dolls, wooden trains, building blocks, puzzles, natural materials. I avoid too much plastic (Lego doesn’t count as plastic), anything electronic, TV or film tie-ins. Montessori philosophy appeals to me because of the beautiful materials, the child-led philosophy, the nurture of courtesy and practical skills and the respect for children’s intelligence.

So… MG loves fairy tales and dressing up. She loves sparkly pink plastic tat, plastic “slippers” to play Cinderella (“You be the prince, Mummy…”), plastic jewellery, and she’ll watch television every waking moment if I let her. DG likes toys that light up and make noises, emulating her sister and is entranced by Waybuloo. Sigh… And they both love, just love, playing with my laptop.

I never let them touch the computer, I didn’t see the need for them to use one. Of course, they saw Mummy and Daddy using computers all the time. Ocassionally I’d let them play with something online (Craymachine is a favourite, as is Mister Maker Magic Painbox) but mainly the only use of the laptop for them is watching Octonauts or Doctor Who on iPlayer – and that’s only been in the last year.

Last May, on holiday, I let MG (3 years, 3 months at the time) properly use my laptop. And from only observing, she had perfect mousepad skills and could select and click with little guidance. This week, I let her on Starfall ABC’s for the first time alone (and the first time we’d looked at the site in almost a year), and she got it immediately. She could navigate to what she wanted, work through the screens and do the end puzzle – she repeatedly chose the letter K which ends with a maze, and sucessfully navigated the maze with only being told that she needed to click on the arrow pictures. I didn’t know she knew how to do mazes. I didn’t know she understood arrows as directions. I didn’t know she was that comfortable with using a mousepad as I hardly ever let her on my laptop.

I guess this is child-led. She enjoyed and got something out of using an interactive site. I want to do learning with books, with physical manipulatives, with natural materials. I think I may need to let go of some of this, and truly follow my child – even if I really didn’t want her to be a TV-obsessed computer geek (like her parents :lol:)