Saturday, July 27, 2019

Independent play

One of the parents in my RIE® Parent-Infant Guidance™ Class shared with me a story about how minimal restructuring of the home environment helped her gain an opportunity to do some work during the day and supported her daughter's independent play.

This is what she told me: “My daughter has always been good at playing alone. When she was first born she had some medical issues that required her to stay in the NICU. We took turns holding her for 12 hours a day which we continued after we came home slowly working on time spent alone on a mat on the floor as she spent more and more time awake. Slowly things normalized. My husband went back to work and I was left to care for the baby while doing the usual household chores and some computer work. As she got older, I needed to add about 10 minutes of “special time” before asking her to play by herself for a longer stretch of 10-20 minutes. I always checked and double checked that her basic needs were met before sitting nearby and working while she played by herself.

When she showed signs of becoming mobile, a friend offered to lend me her a plastic fence that makes a circle to contain your child. I worried we didn’t have enough room in our modest one story house. Why not baby proof the living room and her bedroom and let her roam between the two rooms?

Until she began climbing up on the couches, which really wasn’t until she was about 16 months old, we were able to manage. She crawled or walked between the two rooms while I worked. Sometimes she stood next to me and cried while I worked on the computer, but we limped along. We both adapted and escalated our behaviors: she complained more loudly, I became better at doing my work with frequent interruptions to keep reassuring her.
When she started climbing, she was able to reach the computer and touch the keys or activate the touch screen. Her actions made it impossible to continue working for me. One day I noticed that I was moving -- jumping up and dashing, really -- between the two couches in the living room, sitting on the backs of them, and holding my laptop in the air to typing a few words at a time while my now very active toddler pursued me back and forth across the room protesting the whole time. It’s astounding how ridiculous habits can form almost without notice!

At dinner, our daughter is often done quickly and we put her in the living room to play while we finish dinner and talk in the other room. It’s a nice part of the day. My husband and I can catch up and our daughter can play by herself for a few minutes before bath. I mentioned to my husband the struggle that had developed every morning. He suggested working in a different room. Being in the same room with her, he thought, wasn’t really giving me time to work or her the independence to play alone.

The next day, I made sure she was fed, dry, and gave her some special time. Then, I brought my laptop into the kitchen and worked at the kitchen table while my daughter played quietly and diligently in the other room. Bliss! That same week, she took a tumble off one of the couches and I realized there were a number of dangers in the living room that did not make it a true “yes space.” We had done enough baby proofing so that we didn’t have to follow her around policing her every movement, but there were books on the bookshelf she could pull on to her head (and eat!), the couches, and a coffee table to climb onto.
Her bedroom is very baby-proof because she sleeps on a mattress on the floor and could get up in the middle of the night and roam around. So the following day, we did snack and special time, and then I put the baby gate up in the doorway between the living room, where I would be working, and the hallway to her bedroom (all the other doors of the hall were closed). I told her I wanted her to play alone in her bedroom while I worked in the living room. There were a few moments of fussing at the gate. I met her there and listened to her concerns, rubbed her back, but told her I wanted her to keep playing in her room while I was nearby in the living room.
It worked! Now I make sure every day includes some time where she can play alone, even days when I don’t have work to do. Sometimes she closes the door! When I check on her, I’m always amazed by how focused and busy she is with truly unique play. There are days where she isn’t feeling well, or is tired, and being alone is harder. On those days I give more support (by meeting her at the gate, touching her, and listening to how she is feeling) and ask her to play alone for just a few minutes. Most days she prefers to play alone for up to 45 minutes! She has become more relaxed about the times I go into the other room and she can’t see me for a moment, and her play, in general, has become more “hers.” She loves people and visitors, but recently a visitor came over who was a little too involved in her play. She actually got up and went to play alone in her room! She is, and always has been, really and truly a whole and complete person with a rich inner life and unique inner motivations."

Photo credit: Rhys EST2018, Brooke Cagle, and Jelleke-Vanooteghem

Saturday, April 19, 2014

“I see you are Interested!”

Limit setting and discipline are two topics that are often brought up by parents during our parenting class discussions.
Today in class we had a great opportunity to see how we can be respectful and kind and help children understand what our limits are as well as embrace child’s curiosity and interest.
Two children Finny and Jimmy (18 months old), came to me when they saw me with a new object - a clipboard with paper.  To them it was a new item that was worth exploring.
What observant children we have, they spotted something new right away.  In addition, I think, they also wanted to connect with me, so they came over. First came Finny and for the longest time, she touched the papers, the clipboard, and talked her “rolling tongue” way with me. I stated what I observed and I did not let go, "Yes, that is my paper, and a clipboard.” I paused. Finny was still interested, I made another observation, “Yes there is writing on the paper. You are curious.” When Finny began lightly pulling on my paper, I said:  “I'm going to hang on to this.  I see you want it, …pause… I'm hanging on.”  She was watching me intently and trying to get it from me but was also listening. 
Then Jimmy came over and the same thing repeated with him, except he was more interested in my pen.  I let him know that it is my pen for writing and I'm going to hang on to it, I paused and watched him and said “it looks like you are interested in my pen.”  Jimmy looked from his sister to me and processed the information I was giving him, I’m holding on to the pen, yes it is a pen and I’m using it.  Jimmy stopped pulling on the pen and watched me intently.   After hearing it a few times, he decided to move on.
In similar situations, when a child wants something that you are not willing to let go of or share, you can send children the message of understanding and value their curiosity while also letting them know what the boundaries are. 

Be positive about child’s intention to explore and clear about your limits:
  •          State what you see. “I see you are interested in my pen.”
Show with your tone of voice that you are interested and positive about the child’s intention to explore.
While you are making the statement - gives you a minute to evaluate the situation: is it going to be a limit or are you are willing to give the item to the child to explore?
  •     State: “I will not let you…” or “I don’t want you to …..” or “I am not ok with ….” Or “I’m not done…” Show with your body language and follow through. Remain calm. Be consistent and confident.
It is important to send our children a message of confidence when we set limits. It helps children to feel secure.
  •    Give simple and short explanation of why you are not willing to give an item to the child. “I need this pen for writing.”
Think what is the need for Jimmy and Finny to reach for the clip board and the pen?
  • Is it a ‘need’ for connection? – Should I stop what I am doing and connect with my child now or should I tell him when I will be available.
  • Is it a ‘need’ for discovery? – Should I add crayons and paper to my child’s environment?
  • Is it a ‘need’ to assert himself? — Should I provide more choices when possible? (Asking a child do you want to draw or read?)
Yours in parenting,

Our Parenting Place is a program nurturing children, parents and teachers.  It was established in 2010 and serves families in the San Gabriel Valley.  We offer RIE Certified Parent-Infant Guidance® classes for children and their parents 0-3 as well as hands-on classes for children 4 and above.  Take a look at our website for more program information:

Monday, March 10, 2014

Visiting the Dentist

Ugh, this week I’m due to visit my dentist.  How many of us look forward to visiting a dentist?  . Visiting a dentist can be a stressful event for children as well as adults.
As I try to think about my childhood visits, I can’t recall what it was that triggers a negative feeling about the visit.  I know I should go if I want to keep my teeth and gums healthy, but why do I dread going and feel nervous each time I’m scheduled to go…

Now that I have children, and I know I have to take them to the dentist, knowing that they might feel the same way as I, I asked a few dentists what they would say to parents of children as they make that important visit, what tips they’d give to recommend an easier, smoother transition to the visit:  This is what they said:   
·         Visiting a dentist helps support healthy teeth
·         Prepare your child for the visit – letting him/her know and what to expect.  Give simple information; often parents send their own messages of anxiety to children – avoid doing this. 
·         Tell your child that doctors/dentists are our hero’s – they help us with keeping our teeth healthy. 

To support healthy teeth:
1.    Diet.
Milk and juice should be given at mealtime only. Avoid giving milk at nighttime or bedtime, which is often the case.  Serve nutritional food: fresh fruits, vegetables, yogurts, cheese etc, rather than processed food from a box.

2.    Vertical transmission of cavity-causing bacteria.
Children are born without these bacteria.  Word of caution to parents:  Do not blow on your child’s food to cool it; your breath may contain small droplets of saliva, which may contain these bacteria. Refrain from sampling your child’s food. Do not place your child’s pacifier in your mouth to clean it. Rinse it off with water before giving it back to your child.

3.    Regular dental check up and cleaning every 6 months.
It is easier to prevent the disease or take care of the problem right away, rather than try to treat an advanced dental problem.

4.    Childhood caries is an infectious disease.
Childhood caries must be treated as soon as possible, even if it affects baby teeth and not permanent teeth.

5.    Establish daily brushing and flossing routine.
Flossing maybe hard for young children, floss aid tools can help.
 Prepare your child for the visit:
1.    Be honest with your child and let him know about the visit in advance. Inform your child what to anticipate without getting too detailed: “The dentist will count, check and clean your teeth.” These are examples of getting too detailed: “Dentist will use picks, tools and drills to check your teeth", can cause apprehension.
You might want to check out a book about going to the dentist from the library or create your own simple story with simple illustrations, to tell your child what to expect. There are many good children's books on dental visits such as Bernstein Bear story books. 

2.    Avoid phrases such as: “It’s not going to hurt” or “Don’t be scared” or “you will be ok” or “The shot will be very fast, you won’t even feel it.” Phrases like that come from our personal fears.   We are trying to convince and calm down ourselves that everything is ok. Children are easily influenced when we are anxious and scared. You want to build trust by being truthful and empathetic.

3.    Do not threaten your child with a visit to the dentist:  “If you eat too much candy we will have to go to the dentist” this will cause a negative cause and effect situation. 

What doctors can do to support a child: 

  1. Narrate his actions – often dentists who see children have this as part of their routine, to tell the child what to expect.  Talk slowly about the procedure: “I need you to open your mouth to see your teeth.” “I am going to put this mirror inside; it will be a little bit cold.”

        2. Let the child know how long it will take. Show the time passing with a clock.
Most children are apprehensive of their dental visit and the key is to manage it. Length and procedure should match the child's level of acceptance (age appropriate expectations).

3. Do not distract a child with TV, during the process. I know it’s so tempting to do so. It’s important for your child to process what is happening to his body. 

4.  There are many techniques and personality styles that go into play when dealing with a child.  In general, children need to be treated like adults, and adults need to be treated like children: Children need respect, and adults need to be pampered.

Some of the medical advice was shared by by Dr. Trent Kanemaki
and by Hom Edward K DDS
Yours in parenting,
Teacher Kira at Our Parenting Place

Our Parenting Place is a program nurturing children, parents and teachers.  It was established in 2011 and serves families in the San Gabriel Valley.  We offer RIE Certified Parent-Infant Guidance® classes for children and their parents 0-3 as well as hands-on classes for children 4 and above.  Take a look at our website for more program information: