Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Being a Better Parent While Doing Less the Right Way

We are in our own little bubble right now. We are socially distancing, wearing masks, and keeping our public outings to a livable minimum. 

With all of that in mind, I definitely feel like my little ones are not getting the proper socialization that they deserve to develop good communication skills, manners, and self-esteem. 

I found myself in the same shoes of other parents who claimed that their older children have regressed in their development due to the observation and then mimicry of their little sibling demanding everything and getting everything within reason. 

Just the other day my child demanded that I should get something for him from the fridge. Mind you, he does not have any issues with opening, finding, and getting what he wants. He just knows that his brother gets all that he needs just by babbling. And here my toddler was using full sentences with his whole heart. Surely, he was going to get some string cheese. 

No. 

No he was not. 

A long time ago, reading "Montessori from the Start" Taught me that it is easier to be a servant to a child than a teacher and parent. While I will give him all of the love in his own love language, I will try my best to do less.

And that is not a bad thing when done right. 

Regardless of parenting style, what we know, deep down, is that we are preparing our children to live in a time, place, and culture without us. This might be 5 feet away when they have their first playground altercation, or 500 miles away when they more away from home, or this might be the ever so depressing "without us" that I don't want to think about. 

The more they start learning useful and practical life skills, the easier the parents' lives will become and the more the child can learn more and increasingly complicated skills. 

Right now my pet peeve is potty training, but honestly, if I can get my child to learn his morning routine and the cues involved with everything except that, my life would be so much easier. So that is my goal for now and this coming year. I want to enable my child to do more self-care and eating tasks without my supervision. 

My ideal would be to build confidence over time in my child so that one day, when he can work with very hot foods, my husband and I can sleep in and to wake up to complete and delicious breakfast breakfast. A Mama can dream right?

 


Monday, November 9, 2020

The Story of Mothers in Little Fires Everywhere

 

First Impressions of Little Fires Everywhere

URSTYLE Link: https://urstyle.fashion/styles/2758979

Reading "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng was a beautiful experience and I wanted to dive into it from a parenting perspective. 

Please be forewarned, there are spoilers ahead.

While intertwined relationships between teenagers is the main focus, and Shaker Heights, a setting that can be a character, attempts to steal the spotlight where possible, the book is fundamentally about motherhood. About parenthood. About that nuance of human cycles and conversely unprecedented futures that comes with each new generation. 

This book would have wound up in a recommended school book report list had it been written a hundred years ago. I have heard a book reviewer say that the sentence structures could be better. I understand the sentiment, but I often find that a signature of the author features the author's weaknesses just as much as strengths. For example, while I highly enjoy Edith Wharton's work, I cannot, for the life of me, imagine a map or directions of any location within some of her key works. And that is okay. I prefer her descriptions of human nature under specific circumstances to the most riveting land survey.

Celeste Ng's characters escape from the page as fleshed out people without divulging every single tidbit of life history. The interactions are full and while authentic to their time, place, and culture, are universal enough that a few changes in slang and peripheral details would be enough to transfer this story in time and geography.  

Parenting in Little Fires Everywhere

So back to parenting in "Little Fires Everywhere." While it is impossible to outright name each mother within this book a bad parent exactly, there are little red flags here and there that often resemble the red flags in real life. And I loved that. Not only is parenting a teenager one of the most difficult aspects of parenting, but also being a human being while parenting is a challenge not too small.

Even the most perfect parents carry red flags with them and make mistakes. And that's okay. 

Elena Richardson and Mia Warren are portrayed as complimentary forces in parenting. 

Elena Richardson

Elena Richardson had pursued preparing the space for the child and had followed this course to completion as part of the philosophy she adopted from her planned Shaker Heights setting. She had let her career, while impressive, stagnate compared to those of her peers. 

She had come back to Shaker following schooling, ready to start the next chapter of her life. And while this preparation is elaborate, all of this preparation goes against "following the child," a key Montessori motto.

The main takeaways from Elena's parenting style is that there is not much flexibility. There is not a lot of room for mistakes because the preparation had eliminated as many opportunities for mistakes as possible. 

One heartbreaking moment is realizing that while Elena has written the plan for her own children in stone regardless of how well it works out for them, she is more than willing to help other parents realize plans for their children that work for them. For example, she was more than willing to help a friend get her daughter into an all-girls school that was better for her education. Now it is not clear if this option is better just on paper or genuinely better for the child in real life, but it is already a red flag that Elena does not entertain even a glimmer of an idea like that for Izzy until the plot rolls out through the book. And then, it is much too late.

Mia Warren

By contrast Mia Warren provided and prepared many spaces showing her child the different ways to live in one country and how unique the landscapes, people, and even the sky can be. The comfort provided seemed very essential, instead of absolute. The complete lack of "following the child" is a stark contrast to Elena Richardson's methods and while it would be considered quirky to say the least by the current interpretation of the Montessori method, I can see a fierce follow the child aspect. Key examples include Mia using a sling when her child did not want to be put down, taking on jobs that allowed her to be close to her child, and letting her child mold oneself in the short term without judgement. 

Mia's frequent moves take away any long-term environment from her child and give her child additional challenges in life. Her child is not able to establish long-term relationships, develop a support system other than her mother, or develop traditionally rewarded academic and extracurricular activities for college admissions. 

One heartbreaking, yet completely glossed over point in the book, is the fact that we know that Pearl had the writing abilities to get into a prestigious university. After all, her essay had helped someone else get in. But it is doubtful that Pearl's application would have reflected the grades and involvement typically associated with stellar applications. After all, it is 2020 and parents have gotten into trouble for forging their children's extracurricular involvement. We know this matters, and we know it is hard to build this consistency in new places. 

Both Mothers are Goals and Both are Cautionary Tales

I wanted to provide a comfortable home for my children to thrive in. I also had seen what multiple moves do to a child's academic progress as a tutor and from my own experience. And yet, I want to show the world to my children that I was lucky enough to experience. Yes, consistently developing a know-how in academics or sports is important, but there is so much of the world to experience that is far more personally rewarding.

Mia's life is enviable despite it being opposite to the suburban living ideal. And as a parent in 2020, it's easy to see why. Pre-COVID, it was not surprising to see school shooting events in the news. Surely, doing remote schooling while traveling sounded a lot better than looming fears and sporadic school drills. Even the most prestigious suburb- or any setting that can be its own character- does not guarantee safety from school shooters or other violence.

 



 

 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Using Jordan Page’s Block Schedule with Some Edits

It is a night at home, my list of "quiet," after-bedtime chores are finished. I have retired to reading and writing for the night. These are my two passions in between busy routines. 

And I wanted to share one method to add a bit of routine, efficiency, and quality to your day. It is Jordan Page's Block Schedule. You can read about it on her website here

In the article and the YouTube video, she outlines how a daily schedule is similar to a class schedule in high school. She then goes to separate her day into "Blocks" that make sense for her daily life centered around being an active person, a mother, a wife, a homemaker, a friend, and a relative.

What I loved most about this approach was that not one of these roles was taken for granted, put on the proverbial back burner of life. And that got me to fully pay attention. 

Her schedule of Blocks includes carved out hours either defined by external responsibilities or personal preference when she commits to specific tasks and once the "Block" is over, she moves onto a different task without dwelling. 

So, I tried it. And I loved it. 

I specifically loved it because it was a really good way to adjust to a more hectic morning routine. 

My particular Blocks are different between weekdays and weekends, with the exception of vacations and holidays.

My weekday routine is as follows:

Block 1: 1 to 2 hours

1. Wake up

2. Get ready

3. Get the kids ready (hygiene, vitamins, medicine)

4. Change diapers/take trips to the potty

5. Have breakfast

6. Prepare pumping equipment

7. Prepare bottles and daycare necessities

8. Prepare to leave by putting on shoes and outer wear

9. Drop children off at daycare

Block 2: 9 hours

1. Complete emails

2. Setup meetings

3. Work on long-term projects

4. Break for lunch and pump

5. Work on short-term projects

6. Attend meetings

7. Work on any projects that are due

8. Coordinate with clients and internal teams

Block 3: 2 hours

1. Pick up children from daycare

2. Come home

3. Have dinner

4. Do dishes

5. Play with children until bedtime

6. Change diapers, complete trips to the potty 

7. Help Baby 1 with nighttime routine

8. Settle Baby 2 to bed

Block 4: 3 hours

1. Decompress

2. Complete any necessary or not necessary chores

3. Read

4. Write

5. Play the Sims

6. Plan the day for tomorrow

7. Catch up with friends over zoom

8. Shower

9. Get ready for bed

Block 5: 8 hours

1. Sleep 

2. Wake up again and again as needed


I followed this schedule and although I vary my routine during the weekend, especially when I can have a few more minutes of sleep, I love the structure during my weekdays. 

Following this block schedule I know that I haven't forgotten something along the way like vitamins or medicine. This Block schedule is also a great way to share parenting or caregiver duties since it shows everything that the child needs to have in a day and what a parent or caregiver needs to do to facilitate activities.

As you can see, or imagine, I do not get to do my entire Block 4 in 3 hours each day. I would need more hours. And that's okay. I end up doing what suits the evening the best. Most of the time that is listening to an audio book and writing since I end up moving quite a lot at work and while playing with my children. 

I think one of the great takeaways from Jordan Page's block schedule is that I end up building healthy boundaries in my day for mental health. While I do not compartamentalize 100%, I do put limits on the ammount of chores I do during the day while the kids are awake so that I can play with them more. 

Since I have young children who always want me to play with them, I have this fear that once they are old enough, maybe well in their teenage years, that they will not want me to play with them, or talk to them as much. So I try to maximize our time with quality time. And I figured I could do chores during the day at some point later in life when my children are not interested in playing with toys or hide and seek, or peekaboo. 

Another great takeaway is the capacity to slowly build a schedule over time. It takes a while to get the whole family used to something and this way, you have a few broad strokes that you can then develop further into more granular detail. For example, I would like to have some help with chores once each child in my family has reached a necessary maturity level. Well, they cannot learn if they do not ever see the chore being done, if they do not participate in the chore, if they do not undertstand all of the actions associated with completing the chore. Therefore, some chores will start to be completed during the morning or the evening to start incorporating these chores into my family's routine instead of just my routine.


Maternity Wardobe Additions for a Fall/Winter Pregnancy

 

URSTYLE link: https://urstyle.fashion/styles/2773442

 

You don't have to buy an all new wardrobe in order to look stylish while pregnant.

If you are a clothing minimalist, or if you want to dress yourself without breaking the bank, this post is for you!

First and foremost, I want to say that most social media regarding pregnancy is a lot of lies. No one wears a maternity gown every day. Most expecting parents wear loose clothing that still fits from their non-maternity wardrobe until there is no choice but to wear maternity or otherwise over-sized clothing if maternity is not your cup of tea.

Outerwear

Second, yes, if you are going to be nine months pregnant during the winter then you will need a coat or a very, very warm wool sweater that fits over your belly and then some. There is no way around it in a cold climate. 

I would usually say that if you intend on taking walks, even if it's from your car to your destination that it is worth splurging on something comfortable. This being 2020 with outings limited due to COVID-19, it makes less sense to get something aesthetically appealing and more practical, social distance activity-friendly options seem like the best choice. 

Jeans and Pants

If you use the popular and brilliant rubber band technique or the belly bandit, then you might be able to spend the majority of your pregnancy in your favorite, non-maternity, jeans. 

Jeans are very practical and I placed these on my list because I wore them at least three times a week during the second and third trimesters.

If you work outside of the home where business attire is the norm, you will have to purchase enough office friendly bottoms. More often than not, business and business casual clothing is less friendly to the life hacks such as the rubber band or the belly bandit. 

One of my favorite shopping moments was finding a pair of Loft Maternity pants at a thrift store for maternity wear. It was a steal for the price, and although they were a bit tight in the ninth month of pregnancy, I love these pants and still wear them almost a year postpartum.

Nursing Tanks

If you are also planning to breastfeed, this is a good investment now. These tanks tend to run long and they will be the go to top after your baby is born. You might want to get some ahead of time now and have additional undergarments. These tanks tend to stretch.

Leggings 

Leggings are essential for the winter time to go under dresses. And if you are following your doctor's recommendations of doing light exercise, you need to supplement your athleisure with maternity choices during pregnancy. You don't even have to get maternity leggings although they are a big plus. If there is a non-maternity pattern or style that you like, you might be able to size up and wear them up to your due date, it all depends on the material and the clothing brand.

Dresses

Dresses are underrated as maternity wear. I love sweater dresses or wrap dresses because they will stretch. 

Shirts and Sweaters

While I highly suggest re-purposing your own pieces, it might be a good idea to have a few key shirts and sweaters ready to go for just about any activity. There is only so far that re-purposing can go. And sometimes, it makes sense to be put together just a little more.

I think sweaters are a good investment in general and they don't have to be maternity. A cozy wool or cashmere blend sweater will always come handy while sipping coco by a campfire or taking a brisk walk long after the baby is born. 

As someone who is naturally always a bit cold, I want to point out that Merino wool, machine cold-washable wool, is a great investment and will stay warm even when wet. It will always be worth the initial investment without the headache of dry-cleaning. 

Open Faced Cardigans

While this might look like an ordinary sweater, it is more of a maternity wear power house. These cardigans can often effectively shield a pregnant belly from the elements without having to be a maternity item. 

They are easy layers to put on and take off and will serve time and time again during pregnancy and long after the baby is born. 

If you live in milder climates, these pieces can be your outerwear layer. 

Comfortable Sleepwear

This last essential addition to the maternity wardrobe is comfortable, breathable sleepwear. The final trimester is not a comfortable destination. You need all of the comfort so that you can get the rest that you need and deserve. 

Also, chances are that when your baby does come, you want to be as comfortable as possible. 

To be fair, most Mamas I know tend to "borrow" an oversized shirt from their husbands, but it is far better to get your own.  


 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Preparing Your Space the Montessori Way For Adults

What I love most about the Montessori method is not the floor bed or the ways that kids can learn independence, but what it can do for the mother or the caregiver. 

The Montessori method allows the parents to reexamine their spaces and assess challenges not only for their children, but also for themselves. The home either serves as an asset or a liability for the life of the family. 

Sure, if spaces are not prepared for the children inhabiting them, the child eventually learns to move past or over or under the obstacles. And if that doesn't happen, the child can simply grow up. However, obstacles that can have a lasting impact on the parents, mamas, or caregivers are those rarely noticed because we, as adults, simply get used to them.

How often have we found a chore not done, a home not ready for visitors, or just a home with things out of place to the point that it bothers us? Or how often have we had everything in its place and it was just too hard to setup equipment like art supplies for a hobby because your home was not built or setup with fun in mind?

Preparing a space is a luxury in itself. In those precious, and at times rare, situations when we get to prepare our environment, it is amazing what we can achieve by removing some of these challenges.

The home defines what happens in it. It might be a hook onto which keys can be easily placed, saving time and energy for other activities. Or it could be readily accessible towels for those toddlers and preschoolers to clean up their messes with relative ease. It could be a few toys out of place that are obstacles to adults and children alike during the morning. It could be an accessible pantry, making it easy to plan and make meals. 

Like many mommy bloggers, I am over 25, and I still think that I can benefit from preparing my space so that I can have a slightly more fulfilling life.

So I am off on my journey, I am going to report back in weekly increments. Stay Tuned!
 




Transformative Journey From One Child to Two


 Urstyle source link: https://urstyle.fashion/styles/2767916

 

Third Trimester Pregnant with Number Two

All I wanted to do was sleep, to be comfortable, and wish my baby would get here already. 

And at first, it was a great relief. I was lucky enough to be back on my feet soon after getting home from the hospital. 

Our new baby presented this happy disruption to our daily routine. All of a sudden we were doing the same things we normally were, but now we had a new baby and the excitement that came with new interactions and watching our little cuddlebug grow and develop into a bigger baby with each day.

My often rambunctious toddler adjusted swiftly without too many hiccups. My toddler still maintained his fool proof sleeping schedule with only one or two late night wakes that evolved into a few extra minutes of quality time, and one or two times that he joined me on the couch as I took my evening naps. 

In the beginning, my newborn was stationary, sleeping most of the time. And besides loving our tired faces, he had no interest in the outside world and preferred to sleep. 

The Honeymoon Period Ended

This Honeymoon Period ended with a jolt.

This jolt happened very fast when my young baby gently grabbed a new toy toward himself and put it in his mouth. Then, he just kept discovering new and exciting things. Everything was a teething toy. He would see, he would reach or roll his body towards it, and he would grab. My toddler realized that all of his toys might become teething toys at some point, and he was not amused.

Next, he started to crawl towards new things. And soon after that he started to stand to get to new heights.  

Lets Get the disclaimer over with

No two mama or parent stories are the same.

When I say the honeymoon period ended, I don't want to diminish the level of suffering that I went through as a new mother again. Post partum is not a party, but I want to shift away from those painful body experiences and instead focus on family life. Also, I think my body purposefully, conveniently forgets what the pain was actually like in order get me ready to undergo the ordeal again. Funny how human bodies are built. 

Ways to Prepare for the Active Baby and Toddler Stage

I wanted to share some things that I learned fast from experience that have made a huge difference.

1. Siblings will Automatically Gravitate Towards One Another

The Good

If the age difference is small enough, the older child will not spend a lot of time remembering being an only child. 

Siblings will laugh together and will share a bond. 

Right now my kids are developing what I hope is a lifelong friendship. They smile at the same time when they play together. And they already know what the other one likes. They share their moods and try their best to play with one another, although this is still not possible because of developmental differences.    

The Bad

Sometimes, older siblings can gravitate towards their younger counterparts for "bad" reasons, like to deal with jealousy in their limited, but aggressive toddler ways. I know that my older child loves his baby brother, but once in a while his jealousy monster is fed and he ends up taking a toy right out of his baby brother's hands. 

I learned that my toddler needs just as much attention as before and I try to satiate this need with conversation since it is the easiest.

2.  The Cleanliness of Your Home Reaches New Levels

The Good

You get used to organizing and cleaning on the go during the day. And as a result, you will be more ready for planned or unplanned company. 

Yes, your home can still look like a hurricane blew through it, but you can fix it in record time since you had so much time to hone in your disaster control skills in homemaking.

The Bad

Things that were okay before, like storing the car seat on a low shelf in the home, is now a serious accident waiting to happen, so you have to figure it out and become more creative. 

Right now, I am in the middle of combing pinterest with a fine toothed comb to organize my small home in a way that enables us to live with less dangers for my mobile baby. It is hard.

3. Going Outside Is Hard Again

The Good

There is nothing more captivating than watching a baby discover new things for the first time, including everything that the outside has to offer.  

The Bad

I cannot just add layers and wear your baby. My baby is now an active participant.

 My baby might be interested in exploring that I have to be ready for. While I do not believe in raising my child in a bubble, it gets super tiring making sure he does not try to eat stems of roses or other plants.  

Also, while I am writing this during COVID, any activity outside of the home is difficult. Even going to a socially distance maintained park or playground is hard because you cannot just chase down and pick up your toddler if you are carrying your baby. You have to worry about all of the ways you can limit bringing germs home.

4. Some Days Will Just Feel Like Too Much Work

The Good

There is no good part to this one.

The Bad 

Sometimes, I just want to get a good night of sleep. And that is just out of reach right now. And from having this unmet need, I find that the rest of the day can lag behind or just evolve into a relaxed, but low activity day on the couch.

5. You Will Develop Fine Focus on Two Kids

The Good

This is a superpower similar to x-ray vision, flying, or time traveling. Seriously. And it is the thing that's needed when siblings are in two different stages of development. 

I end up being able to carry conversations, sing songs, organize, clean, play with, and feed your children and it is scary. 

My mind just goes in overdrive because it has to. They are only little once and they need attention.

The Bad 

Those times fine focus require lots of energy and sometimes, I just do not have the energy for the extras. Sometimes, I do not have the energy for the essentials. The little things can be put off indefinitely if they are not fundamentally required.

Afterthoughts  


Eventually your kids will learn to play peacefully either together or apart and the day that you can relax and maybe focus on something else, or yourself for once, will happen sooner than you think.


 



Friday, September 25, 2020

The 7 Secrets to Happiness on Mondays as a Working Mama

Being a working mother is a beautiful thing. And yet, it does not look like it on Mondays. Sometimes it doesn't look like that on other days of the week either. 

Mondays are like the first game of the season for the week. It seems to layout a certain flow to the rest. That's why having it go well is a wonderful gift. 

I used to hate Mondays up until just about recently. Funny enough, these are also the years that I have accepted more responsibility in my home life and in my professional career. By all accounts, I should be having miserable mornings full of spilled, cold coffee on business casual clothes, multiple diaper changes, and dramatic scenes at maximum volume.

And while those Mondays happen as well, I am pleased to say that my mornings typically function smoothly. Or smoothly enough. Here are 7 secrets to finding that elusive happiness on a Monday morning.

1. The No-Brainer Secret

This one is a baseline secret, but here it is, Get into Your Flow.

Here is a good video on what is flow and I will try to paraphrase it in Mama terms with concrete examples. Flow is being completely involved in the task at hand with the ego forgotten. Flow is being really good at sorting laundry when you focus on it. Flow is listening to your child talk about a story and bonding. 

Flow can happen on Monday mornings. 

My Flow is borrowed from habits established from wearing many hats and the wonderful and very helpful Jordan Page's Block Schedule idea.  

It is much easier to be happy, relaxed, and focused when you know exactly what you have to do and how to do it. 

I find my Flow from knowing my what I need to do in the morning. There is a checklist in my head that I go through before anyone leaves the house. And there are so-called blocks or periods of wearing certain hats, like my make believe firefighter hat or my chef hat. 

I call this the no-brainer secret because there is no overthinking involved. People reach a state of Flow when they are doing tasks and activities that are second nature to them in that moment in time. 

2. Your Phone is Not Your Friend

There are so many things to unpack here. I am not saying that browsing social media and connecting with people is wrong. Checking email first thing in the morning is also not inherently wrong. 

It is the habit for habit's sake that is the problem. It creates an odd family culture in your household where your child might learn very early on that being physically there is not the same as being mentally or emotionally present.

So if you can be there mentally and emotionally for your child while looking at 3 screens and making dinner, then all is good. 

I know for myself that my minutes can escape me as I scroll through social media.

I try my hardest to avoid this. 

It is also a lot harder to do things in the morning when you are not mentally and emotionally in your same space.

I am trying to cutback on my phone use and when I do, I notice my mind come to a healthier place. I am not curious to know what 800 of my closest friends--some of whom I've only met once or haven't talked to since high school--are doing. And my phone transforms into a pocket reference to the rest of the world instead of an invisible net that is tying up my morning routine. 

3. The Morning Routine

Speaking of the morning routine, it is crucial. 

And here I am a stereotypical mother who loves her morning routine. We all recommend a good morning routine because it works. 

It's not really a secret, but it is detrimentally underrated that it might as well be one. A routine is not meant to remove any spontaneity from your life, but instead is meant to take out a lot of the bad possibilities.

4. Not Starting Behind

It is a wonderful feeling not running behind on chores, social obligations, or work deadlines. It is an amazing feeling not drowning in tasks, but instead having the time and opportunity to enjoy them in a state of flow. 

A very easy thing that you can do is to prepare bottles ahead of time or meals ahead of time as much as possible. Another thing is to take care of one weekly chore per night. And yet another thing is to complete some reading either for personal growth, a book club, or for professional reasons.  

The next aspect of this secret is one that unfortunately cannot be changed with just an "abundance" mindset. It's about having resources. There is a certain amount of basic resources or necessities you need like food, clothing, shelter, and safety that is necessary. 

For example, if you do not have food in your home, then you are behind sustenance for the morning. And in fact, it is usually the tangible and intangible resource deficits that make us miserable on Mondays. I hope that everyone reading this has their basic necessities on every day of the week. And same goes for people not reading this entry as well.  

5. Planning for Something Fun, Exciting or Comforting

It is good to look forward to something. So it makes my Monday better to look forward to a visit from family or catching up with a friend. 

I don't know who needs to hear this, but you should not reserve a bit of a reprieve from your daily grind ONLY for when everything is perfect. Chances are that perfect will never come. It is necessary to keep your bucket full. And filling your bucket is just as important as making sure your children are well-fed, clothed, and have their emotional needs met. 

I enjoy reading for enjoyment, catching up with friends, and taking bubble baths. You might enjoy something else. 

6. Make it a Game

As a Mama, I know what it is like to have your days melt together. With everyone spending more time at home on zoom calls instead of physical events and meetings, it is a lot easier to lose track of time. That is why I have a simple mental tool for how to avoid the old adage of "the years are short, but the days are long," Make. It. A. Game.

While this is not the best analogy, add some way to quantify an aspect of your day and make a goal. Then, give yourself a reward for it. Did you have nothing but patience as your child had a meltdown at a park after you spent hours planning and buying tickets? And did you not lose your head? Great! Give yourself a sticker, add a dollar to your savings account. Something. Find a way to measure your progress on your journey and most importantly celebrate each step.

7. Practice and Repeat

I am borrowing a lesson that was passed onto me from a very brilliant woman. And I am going to do my best to paraphrase it.

The first time that you do something that you have true talent in, you think you are going to be awesome at it. But no, the first time you do anything, even if you have talent in it, you are going to blow it and it will go horribly. 
 
Life takes practice. And the funny thing about being a mama, a mommy, or a mom, is that the title might stay the same, but our lives might change drastically from one week to the next. And as parents, we keep having these "firsts" that go horribly because we did not have enough practice of these new firsts. 
 
So practice and repeat. It will get better. 

Montessori Style Toy Rotation

I wanted to write about our toy organization and toy rotation structure because I don’t know what I would do without it. It is a technique that helps keep our home organized and the children, mostly my toddler, focused. 

If you want to know how to manage toy rotation in a small home with multiple children, then you came to the right place. 

Safety

The first thing I would normally say is that I “follow the child,” but in this case, there is something more important. Safety. 

I am not going to follow the child when he is interested in touching sharp things, chasing poisonous animals, or reaching dangerous heights.

If you are reading this, you might have one child, children of the same or similar ages and stage of development, or you might have multiple children of different ages or stages of development. 

Safety is a big factor.

Whether you know it or not, you already complete some aspect of toy rotation simply by making sure your child's toys are safe. 

There are lots to toys and tools that are perfectly fitting for some, often older children, that are hazardous for other children. If you ever waited to give a toy to a child based on maturity or recommended age, you have already completed this part of toy rotation.

How do introduce and maintain toys in the home that are not ideal for all of the children? How can you entertain an older child while keeping the young one safe?

One way around it is to communicate with the child who is ready for a more complex toy and play up how special a toy is. Be transparent about how another child in the home should not have it until they are either older or reach an x, y, or z milestone. If it is dangerous, say why. If it is fragile or breakable, be transparent and describe in detail how easily a sibling might break it if they get their hands on it. These discussions are necessary whenever your child encounters any toys that require extra safety measures.

1. Small Parts 

Anything that is small or pliable to fit into a curious baby's mouth is a concern. A lot of babies explore with their mouth and the limited teeth that they do have to discover new things about their surroundings. Items that should stay away from a baby or a young child include: 1) play-do, small balls, magnets, batteries, screws, caps, anything granular like sand, art supplies, and toy parts like eyes just to name a few. 

The technique that I have encountered described in "Montessori from the Start" suggests an older child having a box with these more dangerous or sensitive items and telling the child that they are his, her, or their special things that should stay in that box away from a sibling. 

2. Sharp or Fragile Toys

Anything that can be sharp or can easily break off into sharp pieces is dangerous. My toddler loves nature, but bringing sticks into the house is a limitation he has to live with. We also have a dog that likes to chew on her bones and other chew toys. Those all have sharp edges that can cause cuts and scratches to a young baby or child who may not have learned caution about unfamiliar textures. 

Secondly, in our home and against canon Montessori, we do not use glass. My children are very tactile and we already had enough accidents with ceramics to learn that things break and that cleaning up is very hard. Even Christmas decorations containing glass are either completely inaccessible to little hands or put away for the future. Yes, plastic and ceramic ones are not the same, but I have heard enough horror stories to convince me that these safety controls are just a mild inconvenience. 

3. Complicated Toys

Anything that is too complicated for its own good can be a safety concern. This might be a bigger issue for households with children with larger age gaps, but babies will always find buttons. Any remote controlled cars, or anything else with buttons that produce a movement should not be accessible to a small child. They will not learn much about the world and might get an injury instead. 

4. Baby-proofing

Any structures and baby proofing should be age appropriate. If a child is a climber, or even if the child is not a climber, furniture should be secured if it is unstable. If this is not possible based on where you live then you can limit the access of the child to certain areas without your supervision. 

Inventory

Now that the safety part is done, the next step is to complete an inventory of the toys that you have and if needed organize the toys, e.g. put sets together, keep the same blocks together so a child does not get frustrated from trying to make two incompatible blocks work together. I divide children’s toys by form and function:

1. Teething toys

2. Sensory toys

3. Cars and trucks

4. Stuffed animals and dolls

5. Puzzles

6. Arts and crafts

7. Sets or stand alone games 

8. Balls

9. Animals

10. Blocks

Everyone's methods will probably be a bit different based on their needs. 

The Montessori method suggests only a few toys out in order to help the child learn new skills instead of sheer distraction and entertainment. I wish 5 toys were enough, but here my excuse is that I follow and know my children. 

While one of each toy from the above categories sounds like a lot, that’s what works best for my family with the exception of special interests. All of the special interest toys are out and we are not sorry. 

This week, our special interests are animals and teething toys.

Decide on a Number

Much of Montessori guidance regarding toys features quality over quantity. A few well-selected and often rotated toys will do more for play time than lots of overwhelming toys that may not captivate the child's attention or allow the child enough possibilities for play. 

While others might have suggestions, I have seen good videos suggesting 5-6 toys, I don't think there's quite a perfect number unless it's the one for your child. 

Some children want more variety than others and some might play with two toys at the same time that might be counted as two by a parent. 

I will be honest, we stick to about 10 toys between the two children.

My oldest started the day by playing with dinosaurs, then solved a puzzle, just to shift to playing with balls with his brother. My youngest enjoyed teething toys instead of the dinosaurs. 

I know what sensitive periods my children are in and offering toys that do not meet those needs will just clutter up my already small living room.

Observe

I guess observing is aligned with the first concept of following the child. I observe when my children start playing with a new toy. I watch how they discover a toy, and if and how they continue playing with a new toy.

Their sensitive periods may play a part in the different things that I observe. It will be difficult for a child interested in biting and tasting new textures with his mouth to avoid doing that with a new toy, but another child out of this sensitive period may never bite on a new toy.  

Children may develop special interests that stay over months or even years. I will be honest with you, some toys I have shifted into a "set" that I now count as one toy and I just watch my child play with this set every day without it ever growing old. This is how our "big cat" toy set developed. The manner with which he plays with his set might change including playing outside on the grass, washing the toy set with soap and water, or playing pretend with the different cats.

Rotate

Like previously mentioned, some toys aren't for rotation, like the big cat set in our home. Instead, we rotate many toys around it. 

Our rotation cycle is completed based on our children and their interest in different toys. If a toy is unique enough, then it stays out for a while. Likewise, if there is no interest, we simply rotate it out after giving it a chance for about a week. 

Children will not miss any toys they do not play with. 

Storage Options 

This can be its own journal entry. The premise of Montessori education is that you do not need to have the entire toy isle in your home to ensure your child is captivated and actively playing with toys and hopefully learning new things. That said, it seems, at least from experience, that a lot of logistics go into preparing a space ideal for learning. This preparation includes having the right toys at the right time with the help of storage.  

I cannot speak on the experiences of others, but we have 3 types of storage methods in my relatively small home. 

The reason we have 3 types of storage is because a little bit of clutter looks like a mess in a small space. And without a plan, it is easy to store toys in any available nook and cranny including on shelves in the linen cabinet, in my bedroom closet, on dressers, in shopping bags, in craft boxes, and on top of the drier in the laundry room. You get the idea. This made rotating toys so much harder because we had to spend time looking for them. 

I highly recommend anyone interested in toy rotation to have a storage method in mind before starting so that mistakes like the ones we made earlier in our journey could be avoided.

Immediate Storage

Immediate storage includes anything that a child of any age can get to or into. This storage is the location of where toys live. My oldest interacts with this method of storage which is typically baskets, bins, cups, etc. He can put things back easily without confusion. 

Doesn't this mean that a child can get this toy any time? Yes, that's the point. 

I want my child to feel comfortable to get a toy instead of having to ask us for it.

This storage must be intuitive and baby proofed.

Does this mean that an older child can get to more toys than those in rotation? Yes, and that is a part of growing up. Children will explore almost every inch of their home with impressive curiosity. 

My toddler can open closet doors, but he will not ignore toys that are immediately available just to search through a hard to navigate closet.  

Short Term Storage

Short term storage is anything that is harder to get to and is not baby or toddler friendly in its entirety. In our home, this is a nearby closet and chest that have toys organized just out of reach of the child. Toys are stored efficiently instead of visually. 

This is where toys are stored that might not be at the right age or stage of development for either child in my home. And this is the place where toys go when they are being rotated. 

My older child has opened closets to find toys that he was excited about, but this was very seldom.We will make short term storage friendlies for my toddler to navigate over time, but right now he does not have a lot of interest in using closets to find toy treasures.

Long Term Storage

Our long-term storage includes the attic and the basement. Once a toys has made it there, it will likely stay there at least a season.

If a toy might work well for another child and might get too much wear and tear if kept within reach of older children, it will go in the attic for safe keeping.

Reintroduce

The best toys are those that can captivate children in our home despite differences in age and stages of development.

Based on time, place, and culture, growing up is a unique experience and learning periods can be different for different children.
 

While not always possible, I personally like toddler and preschooler toys that double up as sensory play toys for my baby so that each child can reach full potential in my home without having double the toys out of their storage area.

Likewise, I have noticed that my older child would be interested in playing with some of the baby toys out of curiosity and his ability to play with a higher degree of understanding and coordination. He can now count the legs of an octopus and group baby toys by color.   

 

 

The Great Outdoors with Toddlers

  The Great Outdoors with Toddlers   One great way to ensure that toddlers appreciate out beautiful planet is by giving them increasingly mo...