About me and my blog

miércoles, 25 de abril de 2012

What's new: Questions and commands

This week I have really noticed a change in M's response to questions and commands. For so many months I have been talking to her and asking her questions that would go unanswered that now I am really taken aback everytime she produces a reply. It has really taken place from one day to the next one. As many other days, one morning this week I asked M to bring her slippers to the bedroom and in less than two minutes there she was, one slipper in each hand. I was happier than suprised 'cause I didn't doubt for a second that she had understood my command. However, I'm also afraid I might sound too proud a mother for someone outside the scene, so I repeated the same command that evening and had the same result.
I have been asking M to go to her rug and wait for me to read her the book she was asking to be read several times as well and she seems to be grasping the concept of waiting for some minutes for something to happen. This is the kind of progress that reminds me of the value of having spoken to her so much. I am a strong believer in talking to babies from the first moment and in talking to them as you would talk to an adult, in a clear yet unsimplifyied way, informing of what is to come and never lying or hidding information. It might be a quirk of mine but I hate it when adults talk to babies imitating baby talk and call things using the words the baby would. I know, it is silly but I just can't stand it. I really think babies are such intelligent creatures that we are doing them no good if we invent a language instead of using language. If a baby learns that a dog is a "wow" or something like that, he will have to learn again later on that it is a dog. Ok, a baby might not be able to pronounce "dog" from the first day he starts to speak, but he is perfectly capable of learning and registering the words "dog" and "puppy". This is at least what I am seeing with M these days. She still calls our cat "pa" but since we saw some "kittens" last weekend she shows to be able to recognise both words.
You must be thinking I am obsessed with language. I may be... after all, it has something to do with my profession. I want to note, though, other skills M has shown to have as of late. Some days ago, as she was helping me load the washing machine she was very reluctant to put some jumper inside the machine. Our conversation went as follows:
"Can you please put this diaper inside the washing machine"
She would
"Can you please put this pajamas (hers) inside the washing machine"
She would
"Can you please put this jumper (daddy's) inside the washing machine"
Then she would start telling me repeatedly it was papa's.
At first I failed to understand why she didn't want daddy's jumper in the laundry but after this happened again two days later, I realised her logics were sound: she was sorting by person... Hence daddy's jumper could not belong in that laundry group, we were only loading the machine with diapers and baby clothes!!! 
Our main computer seems to have broken down, so unfortunately I have no pics to upload this week. Sorry!!

miércoles, 18 de abril de 2012

What's new: latest creations, acquisitions, and activities

After M turned 15 months at the end of March, I thought it appropriate to start introducing the concept of setting a table and I found the placemat was a simple way to do it. On my wishlist there was a beautiful cloth placemat but having realized M could perfectly be 3 by the time I learned how to sew and made my ideal mat, I have asked my mum to make it for us. This means we won't have it immediately. In the meantime, we are using a provisional one, I made by tracing plate and cutlery with a permanent marker, as you can see here.
Another of M's grandma's creations is this cute woolen satchel. M likes it and is almost able to get her arms through the straps on her own. It has proved to be useful and been a great hit among relatives and friends.
In order to welcome spring, which seems to have gone away for the past two or three weeks, we made a Spring felt board. It's really simple to make and makes a beautiful open-ended activity. M seems to like it, although she waits for me to make up the picture. 
Last week we gave sorting by color a shot. It didn't really engage M, but there it was suggested.
One of the things on my to-do list is homemade painting... I have several recipes and have been wanting to try one for a long time. In the meantime, we decided to paint the balcony and this is how M helped:
Some words must be added to the growing list of vocabulary. As it couldn't be otherwise, due to the amount of time we seem to be spending handling cutlery and dinner sets, one of the new acquisitions is "po" for "fork". Others are "pedra" (stone), which you say amazingly clear; "boo" for "ball", and "bó" for "sabó" (soap); "teeth", "knee", "chair", and the star of the week: up, up, up. Seeing you tell yourself "up" when you fall down cheers my soul up.
One more week, I am linking up to Melissa's Vibrant Wanderings.

martes, 17 de abril de 2012

Followers or readers?

When I first started this blog, Spanish was the language I used to write my posts. The only readers I was aware of didn't really read English fluently so that was a major reason to keep it Spanish.
Over the time, I found out those followers were not really following along and the ones who did were either fluent in English or didn't read Spanish at all so I decided to switch to English and I've been writing practically all my posts in this language since.
In the past months, and deducing from the visits my blog receives, I've noticed that in the same way public followers of the blog are not always readers of my posts, there are quite a number of unknown readers who aren't publicly following along.
I am really curious about these people who seem to enjoy reading my posts and I would really like to cater to these people's interests, if I could. I understand, however, one may have reasons not to follow along openly. Having said that, another of my concerns is whether I should use a language the majority of the public understands.
For all these reasons, if you are reading these lines and you are not a follower of my blog yet, I invite you to become one so I can get to know you more, or if you are too shy for that, I invite you to send me an email saying which posts you've enjoyed and what you'd rather read about, as well as what language you prefer.
Needless to say, I appreciate your interest and comments!!

miércoles, 11 de abril de 2012

What have we been up to lately?

Some unexpected events and other expected ones have kept me busy and a bit tired as of late. I regret not having posted oftener and have a bit of a feeling of hopelessness. However, I will try to make up for this absence by sharing some pics of interesting outings.
As you can imagine, M has been having a great time.
On Good Friday we went for a walk downtown and she enjoyed strolling hither and thither. I realized it was her first time walking down a pedestrian walkway and I loved to see her self-confident and joyful. It was a delightful picture to watch.
After the walk we met some friends in a nice child-friendly café and M felt at home. She found at least two teddies. It is incredible how much she loves teddy bears.
At the weekend we went to visit a nearby farm and that's what we found; baaaa.

There are quite a few words and concepts M has picked up and been using as of late. One that fascinates us is "aya". First she took to calling her cousin "aya". We wondered why, 'cause she also called her "kiakia", something closer to her real name "Clara". Then she started using "aya" when pointing at girls in the street, the market or  anywhere. They were mostly beautiful girls with long hair. She also uses "aya" for her aunt Iris, whose hair is very long and very black, and most of the time she exclaims "aya" happily, almost as happy as when she calls her teddies. She really fancies "ayas".
Another concept she has picked recently is "up" and I am amazed at how clearly she says it. It is probably the first word, apart from "mama" and "papa" she utters completely and fine. "Up" she tells herself when she falls down. "Up" when she wants to climb to bed. "Up" asking me to pick her up.
Some other words she has started using are "pedra" (stone in Catalan), "more", "ham", "chair", "ball". We also notice a bit of syntax sneaking in, for instance when she says "papa nyam nyam" while attempting to feed her dad, or "nena psss" while sitting a doll on the potty.

I love how she talks to herself or to her teddies and the way she has taken to reading books aloud. She oftentimes comes to me with a book wanting me to read it to her, which I am always willing to do. It is not seldom that she wants me to skip to her favorite page. She seems to have a favorite page in every book. 

Some of the activities I set up for her these past weeks have caught her attention, others have been a flop. Those which didn't appeal to her made me think it was due to the way they were suggested, too abstractly maybe. She would simply ignore them. After pondering it over, I ended up deciding that we desperately need a nice wooden tray. In the meantime I have tried to suggest activities in a clearer way simulating tray-contained activities and this has proved to be a success.
I left a mini-basket with kiwis and a mold for cupcakes on the rug last night for her to discover this morning and she headed for it still in her pajamas. 
Quite a hit were the small foam squares I clipped for her to stick to the window. Of course the water included had something to do with the activity being successful. There you can see her sticking wet foam squares to the window (please ignore the spots on the glass... it's been raining most of the week:-)
Something new we have finally organized in the kitchen is a low cabinet for M to get snacks whenever she feels hungry. I have been wanting to do this for ages but only managed to do it today and it took less than ten minutes... However, I start noticing that she is able to ask for something she is not seeing. It used to happen only with "water", "teddy" or "papa", but she is now able to say "banana", for instance, if she is hungry. Or more frequently "more" pointing towards the place she ate something before.

Another milestone that took place today was M putting her pants half on. She has been attempting to get dressed many times, masters hats and scarves, headbands and necklaces, but pants... this is news!!
I am linking up to Vibrant Wanderings right away before the midnight clock strikes twelve and my precious computer turns into a pumpkin:-)
Thanks for reading!!!

viernes, 6 de abril de 2012

Materiales (pro-)Montessori (post in Spanish)

El viernes pasado tuve el placer de dar una charla sobre materiales Montessori -o inspirados en la filosofía de M. Montessori- en el grupo Mamás graciosas, que se reúne los viernes en el barrio de Gracia. El post que escribo a continuación es una transcripción del texto que me escribí a modo de orientación.

Tal vez os habéis preguntado porqué juguetes Montessori, qué los diferencia del resto, o a qué nos referimos con este nombre. En realidad, más que "juguetes" habría que referirse a ellos como "materiales" que ayudan a la formación del niñ@ como persona, que lo preparan para la actividad humana.
Observando a vuestros hijos e hijas, habréis seguramente notado cuánto les interesan nuestras cosas. Podemos darles un montón de juguetes y fácilmente descubrir que los ignoran porque prefieren jugar por ejemplo con los cajones de un armario, con una cuchara, etc...
Uno de los problemas de nuestra sociedad es que muchas veces se quita a los niños la oportunidad de relacionarse con objetos de nuestra vida cotidiana. Otro es que se hace abuso del "no", prohibiendo muchas cosas que si bien para los pequeños resultarían útiles para su desarrollo, obligan a los adultos a estar más pendientes de ellos. Entre estas prohibiciones podemos contar por ejemplo la falta de acceso a cosas pequeñas por miedo a que los bebés se atraganten. La manipulación de objetos pequeños potencia el desarrollo del aparato motor fino, además de la concentración.
Maria Montessori observó que entre los 0 y los 6 años, los pequeños están centrados en sí mismos, están centrados en su propio desarrollo y pasan por periodos bien definidos de interés en ciertas áreas de su desarrollo. Estas etapas las llamó "periodos sensitivos". Durante estos periodos la repetición es fundamental para que los pequeños consigan dominar una abilidad determinada. En esta franja de edad, la mente de los pequeños es como una esponja que obsorbe todo lo que haya a su alrededor. De ahí la importancia del ambiente.

Los materiales de los que vamos a hablar son maneras de potenciar las áreas de interés que observamos en nuestr@s niñ@s, y por consiguiente favorecer a su desarrollo. A pesar de que gran parte de los materiales Montessori tiene traducción en juguetes que encontramos en tiendas de juguetes, la mayoría de los materiales a los que me voy a referir son caseros. La ventaja de los materiales hechos por nosotros, a parte del ahorro económico, es que para hacerlos hemos tenido que estar atentos a las necesidades específicas de nuestr@s niñ@s y hemos tenido que poner nuestra creatividad en práctica para crear una actividad particular que satisfazga esas necesidades. Este proceso, por otra parte, potencia el apego.
Para acotar el tema, de momento hablaremos de materiales que podemos ofrecer a bebés desde las dos semanas y hasta alrededor de los 18 meses. La edad debe servir como mera orientación ya que la idea de base es ofrecer una actividad que resulte adecuada para un determinado bebé en un momento determinado.
En la edad en que el bebé todavía no mueve las manos, se le pueden ofrecer móbiles que potencian la concentración. La colocación del móbil debería ser tan cercana al bebé como sea posible.
A las dos semanas un móbil interesante es el llamado Munari, de figuras en blanco y negro.

Más adelante otros móbiles son el Octaedron y el Gobbi. El primero consta de tres octaedros hechos en los tres colores primarios. El segundo consta de cinco bolas colocadas de forma ascendente con matices de color que van de más oscuro (más abajo) a más claro (más arriba).

Móbil Gobbi. Photo credit: At Home with Montessori

Cuando el bebé empiece a mover las manos, algunas ideas para potenciar su desarrollo pueden ser un cascabel o un aro de madera atados de una cinta. De entre los móbiles Montessori, se encuentra el de colores primarios, que consta de tres bolas de madera con resortes para agarrarlas en los tres colores primarios.
Photo credit: Kylie D'Alton at How we Montessori
Llegado el momento en que el bebé ya agarra y manipula cosas, se le pueden ofrecer una pelota puzzle, discos de madera que se encajan, sonajeros hechos de materiales naturales, cestos de tesoros.
Photo credit: Kylie D'Alton at How we Montessori
Una idea para un primer cesto de tesoros sería colocar en un cesto de mimbre un pañuelo de seda, un cepillo de madera y una pelota de lana. La exploración permitirá al bebé concentrarse y descubrir mediante los sentidos diferentes texturas, materiales, colores y temperaturas.
Hacia los seis meses, cuando el agarre está consolidado, ofrecer al bebé cereales de pequeño tamaño permitirán que desarrolle concentración y psicomotricidad fina a la vez que autonomía para alimentarse a sí mismo.
De ahí en adelante algunas ideas de actividades pueden ser: botellas de colores, una caja de permanencia, huevo de madera y base para meterlo, dos aros de madera y una base en la que colocarlos, muñecas rusas, el juguete llamado Skish, una caja con tapadera con mango (preferiblemente de madera), puzzle de figuras geométricas (preferiblemente empezar con una sola figura, el círculo), bloques de tela, cesto de instrumentos, cesto con diferentes pelotas, cesto de ropa, gorros, etc.

Un espejo resulta también una herramienta importante que potencia el auto conocimiento y la auto estima.
A partir del año de edad, actividades con animales de granja, con colores básicos, juegos en la arena y actividades con agua, para potenciar la psicomotricidad fina actividades con pegatinas, organizar por colores, por formas, por material, correspondencias objeto real-objeto fotografiado...
Las actividades de la vida práctica adoptan una importancia especial hacia los 15 meses, edad en que la mayoría de bebés ya camina. Entonces se pueden proponer actividades que vayan encaminadas a la autonomía en el vestirse, ayudar a cocinar, limpiar, etc.

lunes, 2 de abril de 2012

Fear-of-choking free

Let me start by saying that I am only expressing my opinion and it is far from my intention to offend those who think otherwise. I share openly what I believe and I really hope not to bother others who don't share my view.
Of all the possible concerns parents and people in general have regarding young children, the fear of choking features, in my opinion, among the first. I have heard all kind of different people warn me "hey, your daughter has brought a stone to her mouth", or "gosh, your daughter wants to eat this or that", "be careful, that toy contains little pieces".
To the risk of sounding like a careless, negligent mother, I will confess that I have never shared this fear. My confidence in my own daughter has always seemed to be much greater than the fear she might cause herself harm. This includes, besides the fear of choking, stairs climbing, falling off beds, and the like. Facts are that I have followed all her processes very closely but I have also given her freedom to explore things. As a baby as every other baby she was interested in bringing things into her mouth and I never objected to it. I couldn't understand how other mothers would rather have their babies suck pacifiers all the time for fear they put something in their mouths. My way of seeing it is babies need to explore their environment and this includes touching sand, eventually tasting it, getting dirty and so on. I believe this helps a child build her self-confidence and learn about body boundaries more than living in a fully sterilized place without access to the real world.
Coming back to the topic I wanted to talk about, choking fears have never been an issue in our home. Having a big garden, M had -supervised- access to sand and stones as well as pine needles, bugs, and other leaves. She quietly explored those and just eventually brought a handful of sand to her mouth. My view was that letting her explore taught her much more than pestering her and trying to take things out of her mouth. This has always seemed to intrusive and not very respectful to me.
As regards food, having followed the baby-led weaning approach, non-pureed food was what she was fed from the start. I believe eating or sucking banana from early on and then other fruits and bread was also influential in developing an ability to taste things before swallowing them. This really showed us that a baby is totally capable of eating whole foods.
Facts are that she has never ever choked. Aged fifteen months she seldom puts non edible things in her mouth but whenever she does, it is for a brief exploration and she lets them go.When it comes to foods, she is able to eat custard apple and spit out the pits.

My reflection may sound boastful. I am sorry for that!! It was not my intention to boast but to declare that babies are much more capable than what we, adults, generally seem to believe. Moreover, the fear that our babies may choke can sometimes bring us, as parents or care-takers, to create a totally safe environment where all small objects are removed. This, in my opinion, is but of little benefit to the child. On the one hand, exploring small items gives a child the opportunity to develop her pincer grasp, fine motor system, and concentration. On the other hand, and again it is only my opinion, when a child has been forbidden any attempt at exploring tiny items or things have been systematically removed from her mouth, it is more likely that the need to bring things into the mouth persist longer and the risk of choking be higher.
I know it is not easy to leave a young child the freedom to explore because it mainly implies having the time to attend carefully, observe and be patient. It may also imply overcoming one's own fears.
I am only talking from our experience with M and the experience of some of our friends but I truly feel babies deserve more confidence on the part of us, adults, than they generally receive.
Do you trust your baby? Do you panic when your little one puts a pebble in his/her mouth? I would love to hear your experience and feelings toward the subject.

domingo, 1 de abril de 2012

What's new: total autonomy, mopping, and "more"

We've been having lots of fun since M turned 15 months and started walking -real walking. Montessori was so right when she stressed the importance of the liberation of the hands. For a toddler it is a landmark to stand up and start walking. This leaves her hands free to explore, manipulate, transport, while being able to move around at the same time.*
Now that M doesn't need her hands to crawl, a completely new perspective opens up for her to explore and she seems to be thriving on it. One of the activities she has been enjoying recently is mopping the floor. Water is of course included and she never misses an opportunity to be near water. It has been pretty sunny here lately so most mornings we actually go outside and play with water and I love to see how M reports our doings to her father when he gets home.
May it be due to the change of position or to the 15 months, she is now willing to do everything by herself and imitation has become a great motivation. She wants to get dressed by herself, feed herself without any help, and spends some time putting on hats, headbands or necklaces and then peeping at the mirror.
She has picked up some new words, which she oftentimes uses (cheese, toes, sí, no, més, and pedra) and I am specially amazed by the logic of some terms she uses for more than one object or person. "Eyes" was one of the first words she started using while pointing at my eyes right away after waking up in the morning. However, later she has started using the same term for light and for glasses. I thought at first that the resemblance between the sounds /lait/ and /ais/ was the origin of such a fusion but what a silly girl must have I been. She is not that careless. There is some logic hidden in that selection. We see with the eyes, thanks to the light and with the help of glasses (in my case). She has always been very interested in glasses and long long ago I left an old pair in one of her discovery baskets for her to explore. It is not seldom that she reaches for my glasses before I have even gotten up from bed and waits for me to hand them to me, as if they were my crutches. Well, they unfortunately are...
Some other terms she uses in a very specific way are "aya" and "yaya". I mentioned the use of the latter in another post. The former was originally the name she gave her cousin -and sometimes babysitter- Clara, but later she has started using "aya" for young girls with long hair.
Another word she picked up lately was "més" (Catalan word for "more"). It took me a bit to see this, 'cause she would say "mémé" and it sounded similar to "mama" but rackink my brains I noticed she said it mostly when eating and I realized it had been her father's influence always asking if she wanted more (més). Interestingly enough "més" stands for "more", "again", and "the other one". When she is eating something she specially likes, she will keep telling you "més", "més". Then, recalling she played with water outside, she will peep through the balcony's door and proclaim "més".
Other activities we have been enjoying this week are baking and cooking. It was delightful to have such an enthusiastic kitchen assistant...
A complete novelty around here was painting with paint and brushes. I wanted to decorate Easter eggs and give painting a shot so I got down to work. When I set up the activity, I didn't really think M would be interested in painting with a brush, so I used fingerpaint and prepared myself for any kind of initiative. Much to my surprise, M took the brush and that's what she did:

Toilet brushing has also featured daily in our morning "program". Yes, I know what you are thinking. Yuk. She never had an interest in the toilet brush before but now that she does, I'd rather encourage her motivation for practical life activities than prevent them from taking place.
Although a bit late, I am now linking up to Melissa's Vibrant Wanderings. I owe her the inspiration for these updates in M's progress. I hope you enjoyed reading us. I wish you all a very nice Easter break!!!

* "By the time the child is fifteen months old, the early mission of hand and brain development is complete: the intellect, guided by information supplied by the hand, is developing, and the hand is now an effective tool" (...) "the child has accomplished an extraordinary feat: he has gotten himself ready for activities directed toward work with structured materials--in other words, for human activity". Lillard P.P. & Lillard Jessen L, Montessori from the start, p. 58.