How to Create a Purposeful Early Childhood Environment

Children are the creators of and hope for our future. They come into the world without restraints and beliefs and are shaped by the environment from the moment they enter this world. That environment instills either love or fear. As caregivers, it is our responsibility to set children up with the potential for success. This begins with creating an appealing, purposeful environment that fosters growth and independence.

The environment must be rich in motives that lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences. – Maria Montessori

When preparing to setup the environment, ask yourself these questions:
Does the space…
  • allow a child to complete tasks independently?
  • encourage development and growth in mind, body, and spirit?
  • allow a child to focus and concentrate?
  • encourage curiosity and problem solving?
  • teach children how to contribute to their family and community?

All furniture and materials should be wooden or natural. These are materials that are naturally encountered in the real world and are appealing to the child. They also provide a sensory experience that plastic toys are unable to. Plastic materials should be used with caution. There are certain instances when it makes sense to use them, but as a general rule, they are best avoided. In Montessori philosophy, the environment presented to the child should be beautiful and attractive. Natural materials provide this in a way that plastic materials cannot. Materials should also be realistic and life-like.

Furniture & Design

When entering a child’s space, it should be immediately evident that it was created with the child in mind. All furniture should be child size and child height and promote independence. The environment should be: clean, appealing, orderly, safe for free movement, and free from anything that discourages the ability to be independent. Establishing a daily routine will also help with the flow of the environment.

Some items to consider:

  • Floor bed, cot, or mattress on the floor
  • Child size table and chairslow table
  • Low feeding chair or a chair that attaches to an adult chair (instead of a high chair)
  • Mirrors at child level
  • A coat rack and shoe bin at child level
  • Area rugs to establish different zones
  • Diapering area with a bin of related items that your child can access: diapers, wipes, extra clothing. Keep diaper creams and lotions out of reach.
    • Child size toilet seat that can fit on top of the adult toilet seat.

One suggestion for every home is a stool with handles and a learning tower. This allows for the child to reach places that they are unable to reach on their own.

Storagelow shelf

Children have a need and love of order. All items should have their own place and the child’s interests should be represented. Children’s materials should be stored in a way that is visually appealing and easily accessible. Shelving should be low and open and materials should be stored in low, open baskets and wooden trays. This setup can be used for toys, kitchen items and food, clothing, bathroom supplies, and more.

 

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Living Things

The environment should have plants or a pet, or both, to encourage a child to care for something other than themselves. Fish are a great first pet because they require minimal maintenance and are easily observed throughout the day.

“The environment itself will teach the child, if every error he makes is manifest to him, without the intervention of a parent of teacher, who should remain a quiet observer of all that happens.” – Maria Montessori

Motor Skills

Gross

Gross motor skills involve movement of the large muscles and extremities of the body. Some gross motor activities are: walking, running, jumping, climbing, and throwing. Opportunities for gross motor development should be available for the child to use at their own choosing. Some great early gross motor activities include: wooden push cart, large foam blocks, a play tunnel, and the Pikler triangle.

 

The colored bottle activity requires the child to pick up the bottle, carry it to the other side of the room and place it on the corresponding color.

Fine

Fine motor skills involve the coordination of small muscle movements, like in the hands and fingers and hand-eye coordination. In addition to gross motor activities, fine motor activities should be available as well. Fine motor activities should encourage the development of the pincer grip. Some suggested fine motor activities include: stacking rings, nesting blocks, and posting – seen below.

posting

This activity is referred to as “posting”, there are many variations depending on age.

Language Development

Language development occurs simply by listening to caregivers speak. Children soak up language and start off making sounds, move to one to two words, then begin to make sentences and then string sentences together.

Language can be encouraged by having books available. Board books are the best option for younger children because they are sturdier. Books can be placed in an accessible basket or on an open, low to the ground book shelf. Some favorite early books are:

  • Lots of Feelings, by: Shelley Rotner
  • Global Babies, by: The Global Fund for Children
  • 10 Things I Can do to Help my World, by: Melanie Walsh
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You see?,  by: Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle
  • From Head to Toe, by: Eric Carle
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by: Eric Carle
  • Everyone Poops, by: Taro Gomi
  • The Snowy Day, by: Ezra Jack Keats
  • A Little Peace, by: Barbara Kerley
  • When I Make Silence, by: Jennifer Howard
  • I Want to Hear the Quiet, by: Aline Wolf
  • Touch-and-feel books
  • “My first” series – words, animals, trucks…

Figurines also encourage early language development, like the ones pictured below. Michael’s craft stores sell realistic, high quality figurines.

animal treasure basket

Practical Life

Practical life activities are fundamental life skills that are encountered daily and many times observed by watching the adults and caregivers in their life.

Some materials and activities that encourage practical life development are:

  • Child size broom & dustpan
  • Baby doll. These dolls are highly recommended.
  • Play kitchen and this play food to go along with it.
  • Scooping and pouring activities.

 

Connection to Nature & the Outdoors

“Montessori is about a kid with a stick, digging in the mud – hands dirty, engaged, fascinated, uninterrupted.” – Trevor Eissler

Every child should have exposure to nature and the outdoors daily, with the exception of safety matters that do not allow for that to happen. This could mean taking a short walk, playing on the playground, doing a scavenger hunt, watching for birds, or playing in puddles.

nature table

A potential indoor activity is a nature exploration table, shown here.

Quiet Area

A quiet area or peace area is a space where a child can retreat when they are feeling overwhelmed or a need a few moments to themselves. Some things that may be included in a quiet area are: pillows, blankets, sensory rug, sensory bottles, window to view the outdoors, tent or teepee, books, calming scent bottles, and photos of family.

 

Music & Art

Music and art gives children the opportunity to openly express their feelings and creativity.

Instruments should be available to children to explore as they choose. This is one of my favorite beginning instrument sets. Music can be on in the background if that is something the child enjoys, Native American flute music is calming and promotes concentration. Introduce songs and finger-plays as well.

Art work should be hung at children’s eye level.

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Art materials should encourage open ended creativity and be sorted by color.

art shelf

 

Materials

Children’s materials should be self-correcting, meaning that the child should be able to teach themselves how to do it without adult interaction and able to clearly identify if an error is made and how to fix it. Materials should also be realistic and life-like.

Some favorite early childhood materials:

  • Large wooden knobbed puzzles, seen here.
  • Train set and table
  • Barn and farm animals
  • fall treasure basketTreasure baskets contain a variety of real-life objects with the purpose of encouraging open-ended exploration and for that reason are one of my favorite early childhood activities! You can find ideas for treasure baskets here.

 

 

 

  • A sensory bin is a container filled with objects that stimulate the senses. I like to change the bin materials to match the season or theme of the month. The same idea can be used to create sensory bottles.

“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” – Maria Montessori

 To gain an understanding of why it is important to set up the environment in this way, you can read this previous post.

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Top 10 Storytelling Podcasts

My family and friends always joke that I have “super hearing”, which is not far from the truth. Hearing is the sense I use the most. I am an auditory learner and rely on my hearing to interpret what is going on around me. I am also a lover of words and language. So, naturally, I have always been drawn to podcasts (and books) as my form of entertainment. The podcast world is currently booming and I couldn’t be happier. I have searched and listened to probably over 100 podcasts and way too many shows to count in the last year. I have a strong preference for storytelling podcasts and I’m sharing my favorites with you!

10 – Criminal

If you couldn’t tell from the title, it is a true crime podcast. The thing I like most about this podcast is that each episode tells a different story, while the majority of the other true crime podcasts that tell one story over a series of episodes. Even if you are not typically a true crime fan, this podcast appeals to a variety of listeners. It is presented in a straightforward, factual way and tells the stories that are not heard in the news.

9 – This American Life

If I was writing this post ten years ago, This American Life would have been my number 1, so I couldn’t put it at number 10. I love the episodes from earlier seasons. The episode topics in the last year have not been as interesting to me, but I still keep it on my feed. This American Life chooses a topic for each episode and tells a variety of stories based on that theme. If you haven’t listened to This American Life or have only ever listened to a few episodes, I suggest going back in the archives as far as you are able to and start from there. There are also “New to This American Life?” and recommended lists on the website.

8 – Unfictional

This podcast shares stories of unlikely events that lead to even greater unexpected events. Such as, a person saving two animals who end up saving the person’s life instead. After listening to an episode, you might be thinking “the Universe works in mysterious ways.” Favorite episode: The Outsider

7 – State of the Human

Each episode features a common human experience and tells a few stories related to that experience. The show is broadcast out of Stanford and is both run by Stanford students and tells stories are from Standford students. Some topics include: Caretaking, Datafying, Obsession, and Questing.

6 – This is Actually Happening

The focus of this podcast is that there is one constant among humans, which is change. Each episode tells a story from start to finish about a significant, life-changing event in someone’s life, told from the perspective of the people who experienced it. Each episode topic is phrased in the form of a question that is almost too hard to believe just from reading the title.

5 – Modern Love

Personal true essays that are read by actors on the topic of, you guessed it: love. It covers all aspects – true love, deep love, first dates, break-ups, struggles, loss, and forever love. It is the podcast version of a column in the New York Times. It includes a current follow up interview with the person who wrote the essay about how their lives have changed or remained the same since writing the essay.

4 – Invisibilia

Storytelling mixed with science about human behavior and how it determines our beliefs. My absolute favorite episode that is actually one of my favorite episodes of any podcast is: “The Problem with the Solution”, which is about a town in Belgium that views “mental illness” very differently than most places in the world. If you are going to choose one episode to listen to out of this whole list and you have an open mind, listen to this one! Season 4 of Invisibilia will start on March 9, 2019.

3 – Death, Sex and Money

The title of this podcast says it all. It is about the three things most of the world is uncomfortable talking about and that’s why I love it so much. I crave deep, meaningful conversation and avoid small talk at all costs and this podcast does just that. The episodes are equally split between stories from celebrities and stories from everyday people about both the struggles and joys of navigating relationships and money and how in the end there is always a learning opportunity that comes from our experiences.

2 – Snap Judgment

Bold and controversial stories that challenge you not to make a snap judgment. The stories bring out empathy and compassion and allow you to view the events from the perspective of the person who experienced it, from a place of understanding. It is unfiltered and real.

1- Terrible, Thanks for Asking

And the winner is!!! The foundation of this show is based off of the question: “how are you?” and while most people will respond “fine”, “good”, or “well”, even when they are not, this show tells the real answers. The stories are raw, personal, and usually tragic, but brings into light that humans deal with struggles and challenges and they should be talked about and shared.

Some that did not fit the list, but are definitely worth checking out:

Messages of Hope

If you’ve ever questioned the existence of the afterlife, I challenge you to listen to this podcast and still not believe. Navy officer turned medium, Suzanne Giesemann, talks about topics related to spirituality and the afterlife, presented in a no-nonsense but touching way. She features a wide range of guests that offer varying views of spirituality and provides concrete evidence that makes it difficult to deny that life after death exists.

Where Should We Begin

This podcast features recordings of relationship therapy sessions. Esther Perel is a genius therapist and effortlessly knows all of the right answers. She is knowledgable, and straightforward but personable. The topics include infidelity, loss, and more.

and…The Leap, Strangers, Only Human, Sincerely X, Dirty John, Ear Hustle, Bodies, The Secret Room, Dear Sugars, Sworn, Love & Radio, This is Love, Spooked, and Heavyweight.

Happy listening!

 

Hydrosols: A Gentler Alternative to Essential Oils

Natural, holistic, organic, non-GMO, gluten free, all buzzwords that have become increasingly popular in the last few years. Yet, these words are not actually new at all. All of the food and products that the earliest humans used were natural, organic and non-GMO, without effort. As the need for faster processing time arose and there was less money and materials available, people had to discover ways to make food cheaper and yield more quantity in a shorter amount of time. This resulted in taking shortcuts in the way things were made and unnatural materials added to food and products.

As a world, we are moving further and further away from that natural state in the foods we eat and products we use, causing our bodies to become more and more out of balance, which leads to physical illness and mental and emotional challenges. We then seek health care to treat the conditions. Traditional medical care treats the diagnosis and illness, not the person. Whereas, holistic health care focuses on the the whole person – mind, body and spirit, and observes the illness in relation to how the body is working as a whole, instead of focusing on one specific symptom. One aspect of holistic health is aromatherapy, which is a form of alternative medicine that uses plant material for both physical and mental well-being. The process of creating a product from that plant material is referred to as hydrosols and essential oils.

hydrosol making

 

What is a hydrosol?

A therapeutic and aromatic water that is the product of steam distillation of plant matter.

What is an essential oil?

A highly concentrated extraction of the fragrance properties of plants.

How do hydrosols differ from essential oils?

A hydrosol is the leftover water in the process of making essential oils. In essential oil production, the hydrosol is considered waste and is discarded, yet the hydrosol is equally beneficial and effectively uses the majority of the plant matter, resulting in less waste. Hydrosols are much less concentrated than essential oils. They can be used directly on the skin without any further dilution and can even be taken internally, unlike essential oils. Hydrosols do not give off the same fragrant smell as essential oils, but do contain the same therapeutic qualities.

Due to their gentle nature, hydrosols are an excellent choice for:
  • Babies and children
  • Animals
  • People with skin sensitivities
  • People who are sensitive to fragrances and scents

herbal healing products

Hydrosols can be used as:

  • Aromatherapy spray
  • Bug spray
  • Skin condition relief
  • Skin toner
  • Air freshener
  • Cleaning product
  • DIY lotion ingredient

Since water and oil do not mix, hydrosols cannot be put directly into carrier oils like essential oils can. Another alternative to using essential oils is by infusing the carrier oil directly with herbs. Carrier oils that are best for infusing include: olive oil, sunflower oil, and jojoba oil. The infused oils can then be used to make balms and salves.

Plant Product

You can purchase pre-made hydrosols or make your own. When purchasing pre-made hydrosols and infused oils, or products to make your own, make sure you are getting it from a reputable company. Mountain Rose Herbs and Pompeii Organics have a wide variety of healing products and ingredients and can verify where their products come from.

Strongly scented herbs produce the most aromatic waters and infused oils, yet, almost any herb or plant can be used.

herbs in potSome plants that are best to use when making hydrosols are:

  • Calendula
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Rose
  • Rosemary

 

 

Hydrosols should be stored in the refrigerator or in a cool, dark place   where the temperature is regulated. The  shelf life varies depending on the type of plant used, but generally ranges from 6 months to 2 years.

Learn how to make your own here!

I am not condemning the use of essential oils! Essential oils are a healthier, safer alternative to synthetic and chemical fragrances. In my search to live a holistic, natural lifestyle, I am always trying to find ways to use products that are closest to their natural state. Hydrosols are a more natural way to use the therapeutic plant qualities and for that reason, my preference and suggestion.

 

 

Is There a Such Thing as Bad Behavior in Young Children?

A good friend recently shared a story about her 12 month old son. He was in the bath tub and was continuously reaching for the plug that stops the water. Her initial reaction was to try to find ways to cover up the plug and divert his attention away from it. Maybe it was because she didn’t want him to pull it out causing the water to drain, maybe it was because she didn’t want him to pull it out and put it in his mouth, maybe it was for another reason. As she was trying to find a way to get him to stop touching it, she paused for a moment, thought about the situation and recognized that it actually wasn’t much of a problem that he was touching it. So instead, she let him touch the plug. He explored it for a few short moments and then was no longer interested.

In this instance, she allowed him to interact with the environment in an appropriate way, which in turn resulted in her son’s curiosity being satisfied with minimal disturbances. If she would have chosen to keep diverting his attention away from the plug, it most likely would have become a power struggle causing an upset child over something that was okay for him to touch, that he ended up not being very interested in anyway, and the bath would have taken much longer overall. Young children have an innate desire for exploration. Their curiosity is insatiable and results in a need to discover everything about their environment; this is how they learn.

sensory mat in use

“Respect all reasonable forms of activity in which the child engages and try to understand them.” – Maria Montessori

Reasonable – what does this mean? By definition from dictionary.com, to be reasonable is to be “agreeable to reason or sound judgment; logical.” The two factors that should always take precedent when determining if a child’s behavior is reasonable are: safety and harm. When deciding whether to intervene with an activity a child is doing, pause just long enough to ask yourself, is this unsafe? and is this causing harm to the child or others? If the answer to both of those questions is no, then allow the child to continue the activity and observe their behavior. Try to view it from the perspective of: what is the child trying to learn in this moment? and what need are they fulfilling?

If a child is jumping, throwing, hitting, running, kicking, screaming, climbing…is this behavior that they are exhibiting “bad”, or are they meeting an inherent demand that has been inside of them since birth? We are bombarded with sensory stimulation in our world today. Imagine how this type of stimulation feels for a tiny human who engages with the world solely using their senses, mainly touch, in the first few years of life. Going back to the word reasonable, though, take kicking for example. There is an extreme difference between kicking something out of a need to discover kicking and kicking something as a result of a reaction to anger. It is up to you as the caregiver to use logic and determine the intention behind the behavior.

An example of a child kicking something in an appropriate way would be, if a child is  running around playing happily on a playground and kicks a pine cone on the ground and watches how far it rolls. An inappropriate kicking behavior would be if the child is playing in the sandbox with another child at a playground, the other child takes a sand toy from them and the child reacts by going up to the child who took the toy and kicks them. Yet, it is important to note that this behavior is still not “bad”. This is the behavior of a child who does not yet have all the words and self control to react in a respectful way.

Again, as the caregiver, it is your responsibility to correct the situation. In this instance, explain to the child that you can see that they are feeling upset/sad/angry that the other child took their toy, but that it is not okay to kick them. Instead, suggest that the child find another way to make that child feel better and let the child decide how they are going to do that! It might be by saying sorry if that’s meaningful to them, but it might also be by giving a hug, a handshake, a pat on the back, or by offering another toy in exchange. The important thing here is that the child decides how to make the situation better.

The curious exploration behavior can be also be displayed by climbing on top of tables or shelves, jumping in puddles, throwing toys (not out of anger), playing in mud, and the list goes on. These behaviors are all appropriate and purposeful. As the caregiver, you can redirect actions that may be unsafe or not the best use of the materials by giving the child something in replace. For example, if they are climbing on top of a table or shelf, tell the child it is unsafe and instead, offer something they can climb on that would be a safe option, such as, a couch, bean bag chair, or a toy intended for climbing like this. Instead of allowing the child to throw toys across the room, give them a ball to throw instead. Jumping in puddles, playing in water and playing in mud is not only appropriate behavior, it should be encouraged whenever the opportunity presents itself!

In my recent personal experience, I was noticing that the children that I care for were often intentionally stepping on top of the toys that were on the ground. I observed the behavior and saw that they were pressing down hard on the toys with their feet, not stomping them, and that it often happened with toys that had a bumpy texture. Recognizing that children this age (under 2) are sensitive to sensory input and the feet offer strong sensory input, I began thinking of an appropriate way to allow for this to happen. I decided to create a sensory mat for the floor.

sensory mat materials

I wanted the mat to offer a variety of textures – bumpy, smooth, soft, rough, squishy. I have a bin of random materials that I have collected over the years for crafts and child care supplies and found rocks, pom-poms, felt, chair coasters, and sponges. Other materials that could work for the sensory mat are artificial grass, wine corks, beads, cotton balls, buttons, carpet samples, hardwood floor samples, anything with texture. I purchased an interlocking cork mat on Amazon and got to work!

cork mat                             glue-sensory-mat.jpg

 

This was the end result:

sensory mat

I specifically arranged the mat in this order so that there would be a large contrast in variety of textures between each tile.

After creating it, I placed it in the room before the children arrived for the day and observed to see what would happen. They noticed the mat right away and not only walked across it, but crawled across it and felt each material separately. Whenever the children would step on toys now, I would say, “it’s not okay to step on the toys because they can break and we won’t have them anymore, but do you remember what it is okay to step on?” Sometimes they would say, “mat”, and sometimes they would just walk over to the mat. It has now gotten to the point where I can just say, “what do we have in the room that is okay to step on?” and they will walk right over to the mat, or they seek the mat initially without stepping on the toys first. The mat is fulfilling their need for sensory input through their feet and giving them an appropriate way to do so.

sensory-mat1.jpg

So, is there a such thing as bad behavior? It’s all a matter of perspective, but the answer should be: no.

A Week’s Vacation in Aruba

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Exiting the airport in Aruba, there is an immediate sense of peace and happiness. Staff members greet with a warm smile and welcome, along with a certain energy on the island. It is evident within the first few moments why Aruba is referred to as “One Happy Island”.  Aruba is a small, 19 mile long, Dutch island in the Caribbean, just above South America. It is not a tropical island, but rather, made up of desert and rocky terrain, with several beaches. We spent eight days and seven nights there, so I am no expert on Aruba, just sharing my experience.

Climate & Terrain

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During our stay, the temperature was 82*F (Aruba’s average temperature year round) during the day and 78*F at night and sunny, pretty consistently. The air was muggy; though, there is constant wind, which helps with that and the heat (It is windy!! some areas more than others.) Aruba is out of the hurricane belt and gets little rain.

terrain

One of my favorite things about the island is the diverse terrain! I especially could not get over the idea that we could see where the desert met the sea. The north side of the island is made up of desert and is rocky and surrounded by rough seas, while the south side of the island has calm waters and white sand beaches. The island is almost completely flat, with some hills and rock formations.

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Accommodations

We stayed at The Renaissance Resort & Casino for one night and an Airbnb in Saveneta for the remainder of the trip. The Renaissance has its own private island that is exclusive to guests. They do give out day passes to people who are not guests of the resort for $100 pp, but the pass availability is limited. There is a boat shuttle that travels to and from the resort and the island every 15 minutes, from 7:00am-7:00pm, that is included in the DSC01900stay/day pass. One of the beaches at the island is called Flamingo Beach and has 6 flamingos that live on the island and interact with the people. There is food available to feed the flamingos. This beach is adult’s only, except for one hour of children time from 9:00-10:00am. There is also Iguana Beach, which is a family beach and a bit larger than Flamingo Beach. The island has bathrooms and a bar/restaurant. One day was plenty of time for us to explore the island and resort. We could have explored for one additional day there, but it was not needed. The resort itself has two separate buildings that include rooms, pools, bars and restaurants anDSC01918d a mall in one of the buildings. The hotel room was a decent size, had a patio and everything we needed for our stay. It is located in downtown Oranjestad, the capital, near the marina where cruise ships come in. There is plenty to do in the immediate surrounding area.

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Savaneta is a charming area where we felt like locals. It is closer to the south side of the island, but still easily accessible to all other areas. We stayed at someone’s pool house that we found on Airbnb. We were pleasantly surprised with what the place had to offer, as it was budget friendly. Our hosts had the same friendly, warm, welcoming personality that we had experienced since being on the island. If you are interested in more details about this particular Airbnb, feel free to message me! There is a beach, Santo Largo, that is a 5 minute drive from the house, and Baby Beach, one of Aruba’s famous beaches, is 15 minutes away. I am very grateful that we stayed outside of the resort area because it allowed us to explore parts of the island that we may not have if we stayed at a resort. In general, I also just enjoy absorbing the local culture of any area, so it is up to whatever you prefer.

There is a section of low rise hotels near Eagle Beach and a section of high rise hotels near Palm Beach. These are both more touristy areas, surrounded by bars, restaurants, and shops, Palm Beach being the most touristy. Both beaches are between Oranjestad and Noord. There were five Airbnb homes that we were deciding between before we chose the one that we stayed at and many more that we would consider. The cities that I would recommend staying in are: Noord, Savaneta, Santa Cruz, or Oranjestad. Noord and Oranjestad would be the more touristy destinations, while Savaneta and Santa Cruz would provide a more local feel. There are several sub neighborhoods of each city.

Food & Drink

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Local Aruban food has multicultural influences, primarily including, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese, with the popular dishes being stews, soups, and fish. We mostly cooked at home and ate at small roadside restaurants, but the restaurants and options are plentiful. We enjoyed the restaurants that we did eat out at, The West Deck and Matthew’s Beachside Restaurant, and recommend both. On our second to last day we ate at Linda’s Dutch Pancakes, which I highly recommend and would say is a must do! The pancakes are flat instead of puffy and more similar to crepes, but absolutely delightful. There are a variety of toppings available that include both sweet and savory. We also had fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee and an omelet there as and all were tasty. IMG_0336The place that we frequented the most was a roadside smoothie, juice & sandwich stand in Savaneta called Mauchi Smoothies & Juice Bar. The smoothies and food are fresh and made to order. My favorite smoothie was the banana blast, which had a heavy banana flavor with a hint of nutmeg and was creamy. One thing we learned when ordering food, especially at places where ordering at the counter, is that the person ordering initiates the conversation instead of the employee.

Being coffee lovers, we were surprised by the lack of local coffee shops on the island. The grocery stores sold coffee and there are several Starbucks. Speaking of groceries, there are two large grocery stores on the island, Super Food Plaza and Ling & Sons. We opted for Super Food Plaza, which had a wide variety of both American brands and local food. The grocery store was clean and well stocked and was less expensive than grocery stores in the US. There are several small grocery stores throughout the whole island, with a major Asian influence. The smaller grocery stores are good for getting one or two things that you need, whereas, the larger ones are better for a full grocery shop.

balashiWe are not big drinkers, but did enjoy a few beverages during our trip. We found the alcohol prices to be pretty average at the resort, but beer and liquor drinks cost almost the same, so it was a good price for liquor, but expensive for beer. We heard from other people we talked to that alcohol was expensive around the island. I imagine this is more so in the tourist areas. Balashi is the beer that is brewed in Aruba; it is light and refreshing. Piña coladas were my drink of choice and were delicious at every place that I had one!

Attractions

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Exploring the whole island is a must, in my opinion. I am a beach lover and am perfectly content with spending dawn till dusk on the beach with a good book in my hand for the entire vacation. Yet, if the trip is limited to only Aruba’s white sand beaches, there’s a whole lot you’d be missing out on.

Arikok National Park

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Filled with cactus, rocks, beaches, caves and the natural pool, the National Park is a can’t miss! It makes up approximately 18% of the island. Its beauty is not able to be described in words. This is the time a 4×4 would come in handy, but it was still possible to drive a regular car through most of the areas.

Natural Bridge/Baby Bridge

A natural bridge formed by coral limestone. The Natural Bridge collapsed in 2005 due to a storm, but the remains are still able to be viewed. Baby Bridge is a smaller natural bridge next to the larger one.

Gold Mine Ruins

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There are two gold mine ruins in Aruba; we visited the Bushiribana ruins. It was interesting to see and an easy stop on our self guided tour.

Downtown Oranjestad

The marina is located here, as well as, many shops and restaurants. It is the capital city of Aruba.

California Lighthouse

Located on the north side of the island, an excellent place for watching sunset! During the day, it is possible to go inside and climb to the top.

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Donkey Sanctuary

A rescue for donkeys that is run by volunteers. It is free to enter, but they accept donations. Bring carrots and apples along to feed them! I could have stayed there all day.

Eagle Beach

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One of the top 3 beaches in the whole Caribbean! It is located in front of the low rise hotels. It is the white sand beach, with clear calm water that is characteristic of the Caribbean.

Palm Beach

Down the street from Eagle Beach is Palm Beach, which is in front of the high rise hotels. We did some shopping in Palm Beach and walked along the path of the hotels. We did not feel a need to spend too much time here, but did want to see it. The hotels and hotel bars are exclusive to their guests.

Baby Beach

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On the southernmost tip of the island and shaped as a half moon. It is supposed to be a good beach for first time snorkelers, and is good for children due to the shallow, calm water.

Grapefield Beach

A fisherman’s beach lined with huts. This is where we watched the sunrise.

Seroe Colorado Anchor

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Near Baby Beach, Rodger’s Beach, and Grape Field beach is a large red anchor. It is a good spot for taking pictures and offers a picturesque view of sea, rocks, and desert.

  • By the anchor, headed toward Baby Beach, there is a man with a roadside stand selling coconut related products. We had some refreshing and tasty coconut water, straight from the coconut! He also has candy and coconut oil.

Aloe Museum

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Aloe is Aruba’s number one export and a plant that is highly valued by those native to Aruba. At the Aloe Museum, you can watch the production process of the products and take a tour to learn about the history. It is free to enter, but tips are appreciated. This was another one of my favorite activities! I am learning all I can right now about the healing properties of plants and learned so much more about aloe while visiting.

Alto Vista Chapel

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A small Catholic chapel originally built in 1750 and rebuilt in 1952. This wasn’t on our “to see” list, but I’m glad we visited.

Philips Animal Garden

We happened upon Philips Animal Garden by chance when we saw a sign after visiting Alto Vista Chapel. Throughout the whole trip, we said “yes” to every opportunity that was presented to us because we figured if we were there, we should do it. This ended up being another favorite activity of mine, who would have guessed?! It is an animal rescue for exotic animals. A $10 entry fee gives you a bag of food with some carrots and we were told: “You can feed anything with four legs.” There are donkeys, horses, goats, reptiles, camels, llamas, monkeys, ostrich, a kangaroo, and more! We made a goat friend who had escaped its enclosure and followed us around for a while.

Activities

We did a UTV Tour in Arikok National Park, which was one of the main highlights of the trip and a recommended must do! The tour that we chose was from ABC Tours. There are several tour companies, we decided to go with ABC after seeinDSC01951g an ad and because it is highest rated on Trip Advisor. Our tour guides were friendly and informative and the tour destinations were great. The UTV that we drove was not in the best condition, but it got us to and from everywhere. I am not an adventure seeker or risk taker and this tour pushed me to my limit, but in a good way. The UTV’s are driven on the road with cars and then through the desert, all at high speed and over bumps, dips and rocks. It would be very helpful to have someone drive who has knowledge of UTV’s and ATV’s and has driven one before.

Our first stop was Indian Caves. There were many bats inside, they did not come near us, but we did see them fly by. It was beautiful and well worth the visit.

Our second stop was a restaurant called Boca Prins Bar and Restaurant, so that people could use the bathroom and have a beer or drink. Our tour guide mentioned that this restaurant has the best pizza on the island.

Our next stop was the Natural Pool, “Conchi”, which is only accessible by 4×4. This was my favorite part of the tour and favorite part of vacation! It was one of those once in a lifetime moments and I’m so glad I chose to participate. The natural pool is a swimming hole in the center of a cluster of rocks that block the sea. The waves crash into the rocks and over them, filling the pool. DSC01977

Our last stop was a rock formation. We climbed to the top by stairs and had a scenic view of the surrounding area.

Throughout the in between time we saw miles of cactus, rocks and rough seas, which was all breathtaking.

Being that the tour was through the desert, I assumed it would be dry and dusty, but did not realize how dry and dusty it would be! We were covered in dirt; anything that was exposed on our bodies, our clothes and our belongings that we brought with us. So, if you choose to do a National Park tour, I strongly suggest:

  • wearing clothes that you don’t mind getting really dirty and that you don’t plan to wear again on the trip.
    • Whatever bag you bring will be getting very dirty as well.
    • Put your cell phone or camera in a protective bag.
  • bring a bandana to wear to cover your nose and mouth.
    • You can purchase one at the ABC Tour rental office for $5.
  • wear sunglasses or goggles.
    • I wore sunglasses, but would probably wear goggles next time.
    • There are goggles for purchase at the ABC Tour rental office.
  • wear and bring sunscreen!
  • bring wipes for cleaning off and a towel.
  • A driver’s license is needed.

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There are also ATV tours and Jeep tours. For the Jeep tours there is the option to drive your own and the option to ride along in one with a tour guide.

Some other activities offered on the island are: sailing, snorkeling, diving, submarine tour, jet ski rental, island tours in various vehicles, wind surfing, kite boarding, horseback riding, fishing, casinos and shopping.

Highlights & Tips

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  • A rental car is needed if you intend to explore the island and/or if you are not staying at a resort.
    • If you are staying at a resort, particularly in the Palm Beach area, it is possible to still do a few activities without a car.
    • A Jeep would be worth the splurge
    • UTV’s & ATV’s can be driven on the road
    • I heard that public transportation is not efficient in Aruba and cabs were expensive, but can’t say for sure.
    • We did not see many people riding bicycles.
    • I did not drive while we were there, but as a passenger, observed that the roads were something to get used to. There are very few traffic lights and stop signs and several traffic circles. We learned quickly that everyone goes when they feel it is best to go and if there is a gap in cars, someone will pull out in front of you. With that said, the system actually works well.
    • They drive on the right side of the road.
    • Most gas stations are full service.
  • Everyone was happy, friendly and went out of their way to be helpful! There is a sense of community on the entire island.
  • Most people speak English, along with several other languages.
  • Aruba is on “island time” meaning no one is in a rush to do anything and service can be what one may consider slow. This is something I particularly enjoyed though.
  • Everywhere we went was not crowded.
    • The high-season is December – April
    • The low season is May – November
  • I felt completely safe the entire time we were there, no matter what part of the island we were on. We had no problem leaving our items on the beach while swimming in the water or taking a walk.
    • We used common sense and put high value items in the car, but still never felt like we had to.
  • Unlike some other popular tourist destinations, we were never hassled to purchase anything.
  • The tap water is not only safe to drink, it tastes great! Their water is distilled in a saltwater desalination plant. No need to buy bottled water!
  • The US dollar is widely accepted around the island.
    • Sometimes the price is given in Florin, Aruba’s currency. A tip we learned is if it is in Florin, divide by 2 and add 10% and that will give you the US dollar price.
    • You can ask if the price is in US dollars or Florin, or just tell the person that you are paying in US dollar and they will tell you the amount.
    • 15% tip is automatically added to any bill for food service and although an additional tip is appreciated, it is not expected.
    • Overall, the island is inexpensive. The tourist area and tourist activities are where we found the highest prices, but outside of that we were shocked at how little everything cost.
  • Wear sunscreen and bring it everywhere you go.
  • We brought bug spray with us, but didn’t really use it. We did not encounter many mosquitoes or bugs; I think this is due to the wind.
  • Goats and donkeys roam freely on the north side of the island and are seen in many places. They are used to humans and friendly, the donkeys in particular. If you are an animal lover like me, I suggest bringing carrots and apples with you when exploring that side of the island. There is also an abundance of various species of lizards and birds.
  • There are many stray dogs on the island, but we still did not see as many as we expected and they are mostly in the local neighborhoods. All of the ones we encountered were either friendly or scared of us and were never a problem.
  • Although Aruba is filled with beaches, it is not a tropical island, which is a common misconception. So, there is not much greenery, but it is beautiful in so many other ways.
  • Five days, four nights should be sufficient time to explore the island. I would have liked to stay for ten days to fit in a few more activities though.
  • The island is a destination ideal for couples or small families and romantic getaways.
    • It is a popular honeymoon location.

What to Bring

  • A hat that will protect you from the sun, but also fits tightly or has a strap.
  • Specific brand/product items
    • Ex: I require a specific brand of sunscreen because almost all sunscreens cause a reaction and I was unable to find it on the island.
    • There are not really any convenience stores and the ones that they do have are not easy to find.
  • Reusable water bottle
    • Drink plenty of water and bring water with you everywhere! The sun is intense.
  • Sunglasses – I suggest two pairs, one that you don’t mind breaking or losing and then a pair of nicer ones.
  • A bandana if you plan to do a UTV, ATV, or Jeep tour.
  • Clothes that are wind-friendly; shorter dresses and skirts are not ideal.
  • One pair of pants and a light jacket for the evenings or early morning.
  • Overall, the island is casual dress.

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What I would do next time

Our trip unfolded perfectly and we did all of the activities on my hypothetical “must do” list. If (when) I go back to Aruba, I would:

  • go to the Butterfly Farm
  • go to Bubali Bird Sanctuary
  • visit more museums
  • do water acitivites
  • visit more beaches – there are over 20 beaches and each one is unique
  • go to Frenchman’s Pass
  • go to the Ostrich Farm
  • go to the Bon Bini Festival and/or Carrubian Festival, both held weekly
  • take an island tour and horseback riding tour
  • climb to the top of Hooiberg mountain (there are steps)
  • spend more time exploring each city, especially Noord
  • go to Eduardo’s Beach Shack, Craft, and Huchada, all restaurants, and eat more local food

I was unexpectedly overwhelmed with emotion when it was time to leave. It was more than just the fact that vacation was ending; Aruba has a certain feel about it that just makes you want to stay in that environment forever. There is a quote that popped into my head a few days after being in Aruba that says something like: you can’t escape from your problems just by moving somewhere else, I was thinking, that is not true about here. Aruba made me feel like no matter what my difficulties are, I would be able to handle them with more grace just by being there. It was effortless to identify with joy and live in the moment, and that is what I long for. One Happy Island is the most accurate name and I highly recommend visiting! I’m sad that it had to end, but so grateful for the memories. Part of my heart will always remain in Aruba.

 

Happier, Healthier Dogs: A Guide to Feeding Real

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I have always fed dogs kibble…until now. It is what we are told to feed dogs, it is what is in pet stores and it is what is marketed, so why would we do otherwise? Fortunately, Ranger (pictured) lead me down the path of exploring food alternatives and now, I will never go back. After doing a significant amount of research and consulting with various animal professionals, it seemed so obvious; of course dogs should be eating a balanced diet that includes variety and high quality nutrients! I found myself feeling frustrated that I hadn’t thought of it on my own, or sooner. It is like the saying goes though, do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

So why not kibble?

Kibble is highly processed and for that reason, lacks nutrients. It is grain based, contains additives and synthetic ingredients, and is a low quality protein. Kibble is designed to allow dogs to survive, but not to thrive. The human equivalent of kibble can be compared to something like Cheerios. Cheerios provide a certain amount of nourishment and satisfy hunger. Yet, imagine eating that bowl of Cheerios for each meal during your day. Then imagine eating that bowl of Cheerios for each meal everyday. Not only would it become bland and boring, over time, it would lead to lacking significant nutrients in your diet and in turn cause health problems. Some kibble can be compared to eating fast food at every meal.

I am not making a judgment against kibble feeders. Again, it is what we are told to feed dogs, even by veterinarians. I am just asking that you look at it for what it really is and instead, consider that your animal companion might not want to be eating it. The number one indicator that a dog does not want to be eating kibble is if they are picky! Digestive difficulties are a close second, as well as, allergies and/or skin issues. You are what you eat applies to dogs too. Research shows that the majority of behavior concerns, health concerns and allergies in dogs relate directly back to food.

What to Feed Instead

There are a few options when it comes to feeding a dog a balanced, nutritional diet.

  • Raw
  • Freeze-dried raw
  • Dehydrated
  • Pre-cooked: purchased from a company
  • Homemade

When making the switch from kibble to real food, there are several factors to consider, including:

  • Breed
  • Age
  • Weight
  • Size
  • Activity level
  • Body temperature
  • Food allergies
  • Health concerns

I encourage you to do you own research, consult your veterinarian and consult additional animal care professionals to determine the best type of food and amount to feed your dog. Be mindful, though, that vets are trained in standard medical procedures. Not all vets are on board with home-cooked food, feeding raw, or “new age” diets. Some vets have contracts with certain dog food companies and in turn, suggest those to be feeding your dog. As long as you have confidence and are able to explain why you are making that choice for your dog, then your vet should at least be able to make recommendations for resources.

Making the switch from kibble to real food:

  •  Extends longevity of life
  • Increases quality of life
  • Significantly minimizes vet visits
  • Shows love for our animal companions

I know what you’re thinking…doesn’t feeding real cost so much more than kibble and take a lot more time? The answer is yes…and no.

Our animal companions should be considered a family member and if they are, wouldn’t you choose only the best for them? By choosing to feed real, you are taking a proactive approach to providing the best life for your dog. Although you may be paying a higher cost up front, you will be saving money in the long term on visits to the vet.

To cut down on costs and time, there are a few options:

  • Feed your dog what you are eating, with modifications.
    • Limit spices and there are certain foods to be avoided completely.
  • Cook your dog’s food at home in large portions and freeze it.
  • Purchase some pre-made food and cook the rest of the food at home.
  • Alternate between a some kibble, some real food diet.

Potential Foods

Safe & Provide beneficial nutrients: Chicken, Beef, Turkey, Lamb, Duck, Salmon, White Fish, Eggs, Quinoa, Spinach, Carrots, Green Beans, Peas, Sweet Potato, Squash, Apples, Blueberries, Banana.

Given in moderation: Potato, Chick peas, Navy beans, Flax seed, Oats, Green pepper, Kale, Broccoli, Zucchini, Parsley, Cabbage, Celery, Pumpkin, Strawberries, Cranberries, Pineapple, Peanut butter, Plain Greek yogurt, Rice, Pasta.

AVOID: Avocado, Onion, Grapes, Raisins, Cherries, Chocolate, Macadamia nuts. These foods are not safe for dogs and should never be fed to them. Garlic, citrus fruits & fruits with pits are others that could go on this list, but some say it is safe in small quantities. It is best to do your on research and consult with an animal care professional.

To provide the highest quality food for your dog to thrive, it should be natural and organic. If the cost is something that deters you, then just buy what you are able to. When making the switch, you don’t need to go all in. The goal is to provide balance.

Some Favorite Companies

I am not affiliated with any of these brands, just a happy customer.

  • The Honest Kitchen
    • This company has a product selector quiz on their website, which helps to determine which food option is best for your dog.
  • Bark Bistro Company
  • Grandma Lucy’s
  • Nature’s Farmacy – for supplements

Stella & Chewy’s and Primal make a high quality kibble. Although it does not provide the same balance and variety, the ingredients that are in this kibble are safe and nutritious. If you feel a need to stick with kibble, these brands are highly recommended.

Ranger’s Diet

Ranger is a 2.5 year old Great Dane mix, 85 pounds and an average activity level. He has a sensitive stomach and does best with a limited ingredient diet. He has a cooler body temperature and is balanced by foods that are warming.

When we first brought him into our family, he was eating kibble. I alternated between brands, such as: Blue Buffalo, Wellness, Instinct, Acana and Orijen. He would eat the food for a certain amount of time and then begin to refuse it. During this time, he also experienced extreme nausea and ate grass obsessively, had loud, gurgling stomach noises, and had moments of repeated gulping, along with head tremors. After numerous vet visits, overnight ER visits, scans and tests that resulted in no answers, I decided to seek out additional resources. I began researching on my own, as well as, consulted with animal communicators and a woman who provides holistic wellness consultations for dogs. It was then quickly determined that all of these symptoms were most likely related to his diet: lack of nutrients, too much protein and a need for certain supplements. After changing his diet, the symptoms disappeared. He still has moments of nausea and upset stomach, as well as, head tremors; however, they are now easily managed and do not last long. We have not had to go to the vet for any reason aside from yearly routine visits, since his diet was changed.

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He now eats a combination of:

The Honest Kitchen – Limited ingredient chicken recipe, Fruit & veggie base mix, Beef Bone Broth, Chicken Bone Broth, Beef Proper Toppers, & Chicken Proper Toppers.

Stella & Chewy’s Meal Mixers and Dinner Patties – Chicken, Lamb, & Beef

Home-cooked: Boiled chicken, quinoa, eggs, rice, sweet potato, carrots, peas, green beans, squash.

Nature’s Farmacy Probiotic Max

Vitamin E – 200IU

Coconut Oil

Diet Compliments

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In addition to feeding real food at meals, there are other supplements and products that can be given to increase overall well-being and health. Some include:

  • Natural, organic treats
  • Bone Broth
  • Probiotics & enzymes
  • Freeze-dried, raw meal mixers & toppers
  • Fish Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Vitamin E
  • CBD Oil
  • Manuka honey
  • Herbs
  • Natural flea & tick and heartworm preventatives

ranger up close

The rule of thumb to use when feeding your animal companion is: don’t serve them anything you wouldn’t eat yourself. Once when I was buying food for Ranger at a local pet store, I was talking with the cashier and he said to me, “I feel so bad for the dogs I had before, that they didn’t eat what my dogs are eating now.” I identified with this same feeling. Now that I know that dogs should be eating a balanced, nutritious diet, I will never go back.

 

 

Cultivating Respect in Children from Infancy

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“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and the greater possibilities of their future.” – Maria Montessori

 

We are taught as a society that children are lesser than adults and therefore adults should be respected in a way that children are not. This concept comes from the idea that children are incapable because of their initial inability to communicate verbally and because they are dependent on adults. Yet, if you observe a child closely, you will find that they are indeed capable. There is much to learn from how children interact with their environment and how they live in the moment. It could be said that children are actually teaching us, instead of us teaching them.

In order for a child to grow up as an adult who shows respect, they themselves need to be shown respect. Giving a child a level of respect that we give to adults is how they learn that. This shows the child that they are recognized and understood. The adult should show respect to the child’s developmental learning process, ability to make choices, providing openness to expressing feelings, and allow them to voice their opinion. This level of respect allows the child to not only function in their environment, but flourish.

Where to Start

 

When implementing something with children, one rule consistently remains, which is, safety and health come before everything else; this could mean in an emergency situation, or times when something is suggested by a health care professional that requires the parent to do something other than follow the child. Yet, in almost every other circumstance, it is possible to ask yourself, “Is the choice I am making going to better my child’s experience and promote respect and individuality?”

Respect for the child should begin the day they are born. I would say that it should begin from the day they are conceived, but since that could bring up ideas related to belief system, I will leave it to you to determine. The very first place to start is removing the belief that infants are helpless and incompetent. Even if you don’t believe it yet, try viewing the infant as fully capable, fake it ‘til you make it. Once you do this, you will be amazed at what your infant is capable of.

Practicing Respect in Infancy

 

Talk

When speaking to a child, it should be done as if you were speaking to an adult, but with simplified language. The significant part to take into consideration is the tone – the tone of your voice should sound natural. The focus is not so much the introduction and development of language because there are several approaches to learning language, but the way in which you talk to a child indicates your level of respect for them. “Baby talk” implies that the child is lesser, whereas, using a natural tone implies that you are recognizing the capability of the child. Some other things to take into consideration when talking to an infant or young child include:

  • Call the child by their name.
    • Do not use “baby” in front of their name when talking about them or to them. For example, if the child’s name is Sam, they should be referred to as Sam and not Baby Sam.
  • Tell the child what you are going to do before doing it to them or with them. If your child is making eye contact or sounds, wait for a response or acknowledgment before doing the task.
    • “I am going to pick you up.”
    • “I am putting your diaper on.”
    • “I am going to move you from your bed to the floor.”
    • “I am putting your arm through the sleeve.”
  • Prepare your child for what is going to come next.
    • “I am going to change your diaper and then it will be time for nap.”
    • “I am going to give you a bath and then get you dressed.”
  • Avoid using “we” to describe something a child is doing. You and your child are two separate people and it is important to recognize your child as an individual.
    • Instead of saying, “We are learning to crawl!” It should be, “‘Child’s name is learning to crawl!”
  • Introduce sign language. Sign language gives a child the ability to communicate their needs before they can speak verbally. Some beneficial early sign language to teach is:
    • More
    • Done
    • Please
    • Eat
    • Sleep
    • Milk
    • Water
    • Change
    • Help
    • Bath
    • Play

Respect Routine

Allow sleeping and eating to occur on your child’s schedule. Naturally, a child will sleep when they are tired and eat when they are hungry, as well as, stop eating when they are full. From birth to three months, sleeping and eating can feel sporadic and overwhelming while your child is trying to make sense of the world and establish trust. Parents often try to create a routine out of the adult need for consistency and sleep, yet having a young infant means late nights, lack of sleep and an abnormal day-to-day.  Fully respecting the child means letting go of your adult needs and following your child’s cues. This does not mean neglecting self care; it just means putting your child in the forefront and recognizing them as an individual.  After three months, the child should begin to formulate a schedule and around six months will have a more defined schedule.

Children have an innate need for order, so consistency is what helps establish this. Help your child to get to know day and night by taking them outside during the day, having curtains open and/or lights on and at night turn the lights down low.  Repetitive activities, such as, using the same space to get your child dressed in the morning and singing a certain song before going to sleep at night provides an opportunity for your child to make the connection between that activity and its purpose. Following the same sequence of events during the day also helps your child to develop order.

Respect Movement

As often as possible, children should be in a space that allows for their body to move freely. This gives your child the opportunity to stretch and discover their body. A mat or blanket on the floor, preferably next to a mirror is an ideal space to allow the child to do this. On the contrary, bouncers, playpens, swaddling and other containing equipment restricts your child’s ability to move. This is not to say that these items should never be used, they should just be used in moderation.

Respect Concentration

If a child is focused on something, they should not be interrupted. It could be a mobile, a photograph, or their own hands. Building concentration is a tool that will be used throughout their lifetime. Not interrupting also shows the child that you respect their interests and their time. As an adult, think of it as interrupting a colleague at work. If your colleague is in the middle of writing an email, are you going to just walk into their office and stand in front of their computer and begin talking to them? The correct answer should be no, because you respect their time and space. Instead, you might observe from a distance to see when they are finished typing the e-mail and then approach them. This works in the same way with your child, once they break their focus, it becomes an appropriate time to step in.

Continuing into Toddlerhood and Forward

 

Practice Freedom within Limits

Allowing the child the ability to freely explore the environment and learn for themselves, while giving guidance and implementing boundaries to ensure safety and promote positive outcomes for your child.

Allow your child to make choices.

Giving your child the option to make a choice shows that you validate their opinion. It is important, however, to limit the options so that your child does not feel overwhelmed. Choices can be made for:

  • Clothing
    • Lay out two or three outfits and have your child choose what they would like to wear.
  • Food
    • If packing a lunch…
      • Do you want strawberries or grapes?
      • Do you want turkey or ham?
      • Do you want bread or crackers?
      • Do you want cheese or yogurt?
    • Where to go
      • Would you like to go to the park today or take a walk in the neighborhood?
    • What to do
      • Do you want to brush your teeth first or put on your pajamas first?

Only discuss your concerns about a child when they are not present.

Even in infancy, a child should never be spoken about in front of them.  If a child verbally hears you express a concern, they may avoid doing something altogether, or feel as though they have done something wrong. An example of this would be if your child is at the developmental age to be walking and you tell another person in front of your child that you are worried because your child is not walking yet. Although an infant does not have the full cognitive ability for this type of language processing, they do recognize their name, their parent’s voices and it is something that will be conveyed to them subconsciously. Whether or not the child understands fully, it is still unkind to speak of them in this way in front of them and should not be done.

Ask yourself if whatever it is that has to be done, does it have to be done now?

If there is something in your daily routine that you need your child to do, first ask yourself is it really something you need done immediately, or is it something that can wait. If it can wait, prepare your child first. For example, “After you build one more block tower, it will be time to get dressed.” This shows your child that you are respectful of their time and their wants.

Explain to your child why things have to be done.

You need to do this because…

  • it will keep you safe.
    • Ex: holding hands when crossing a street
  • it will keep you healthy.
    • Ex: brushing teeth
  • it will help you grow.
    • Ex: eating vegetables
  • it will give you energy.
    • Ex: taking a nap

Talking about and validate feelings.

This topic could be a blog post in itself, and maybe it will be but in short, it is necessary to allow a child to feel and acknowledge that those feelings are okay to have.

  • “It looks like you are sad because you are crying. Can you tell me why you are feeling sad?” Once they express why they are feeling sad, validate that it is okay to feel sad because of that, even if it is something that would not personally make you sad.
  • Ask your child’s opinion about ideas.

Make it known that mistakes are okay.

Mistakes are essential to learning. Fear of failure is something that many adults have today. Beginning in childhood, if a child knows that mistakes are okay, they will be more likely to try new things and take risks. If a child makes a mistake, help them find a way to fix it without reprimanding them for what occurred. For example, if a child spills their cup of water on the ground, say “I see you spilled your water, lets clean it up” then take them with you to get a rag and have them help you clean up the spill.

Teach your child to respect the environment.

This means both the living environment and the outdoors. Inside, your child should be encouraged to be respectful of all materials – putting things back when they are finished with them, cleaning up after themselves and being gentle with items so that they do not break. Outside, children should be taught that all plants, insects and animals have a purpose and deserve love and care. This means that they should not step on or kill bugs. It is also best to encourage children to leave flowers in the ground instead of picking them because that is what is most natural.

Respecting Others

Again, another blog post in itself, but in short, a child should be taught to use kind words, be gentle and take other’s feelings and thoughts into consideration.respect

A child who grows up being shown respect by the adults in their life, will grow up to show this same respect to both themselves and others, have confidence, and learn to be understanding and accepting of all people.  The more children we have in our world who learn respect from infancy, allows for the possibility of a society who communicates, celebrates differences, and recognizes equality.