Tuesday, 22 August 2017

4 Low Resource Movement Activities For 6-9 Months

Xiaobao turned 6 months old this week. I have been doing little activities with her since she was a newborn (0-2 month activities3-6 month activities). We have found it's a good way to get Baobao involved with Xiaobao and to foster a loving relationship between the two. We're aiming for toy minimalism, so enjoy activities with little or no resources.

Around 7-9 months, strength and muscle control continues to develop, leading at some point to crawling. Some will crawl before and some will crawl later, but for the majority this is the period of time for learning to crawl. Once they are crawling, babies will continue to work on their gross motor skills by pulling themselves up on to furniture.



Bathtime Fun
Bathtimes are the perfect time for gross motor development. Now that Xiaobao is sitting independently, we encourage her to splash in the water and play with objects such as ducks. Baobao demonstrates filling and pouring cups and we're encouraging Xiaobao to join in.

Tummy Time
This is the age when your baby is most likely to learn to crawl. You can't determine when or how, but you can get on to the floor with them and encourage them to use the muscles that they will need to strengthen for crawling.

Floor Flying involves encouraging baby to lift her head and arms while lying on her tummy She will look a little like an aeroplane. This improves neck-strength, head control, mobility and balance, with the ultimate goal to promote crawling
You can also encourage baby to roll towards you or even better roll around the room together. This strengthens your baby's trunk and works on their coordination, other important skills that build up towards crawling.

Tunnels Galore

Once baby is crawling, you can play tunnel games together, by making tunnels using cloth, chairs and boxes. This encourages crawling, curiosity, adventurousness and determination.


Hammer Hammer Hammer

One your baby is sitting steadily, they have the body control to work on their arm control. Hammering pegs on a peg toy, or gold tees into play dough, works on hand-eye coordination, as well as coordination of their shoulder, arm and hand.

Horsey Rhymes

Baobao always enjoyed horse riding based nursery rhymes and games. Place your child on your lap and gently bounce them up and down to the beat of the song. As well as working on their sense of balance and bodily strength, it is also one of the only ways to instil a sense of rhythm at a young age.

Here are our favourite horsey rhymes:

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
She shall have music wherever she goes.
and:
This is the way the lady rides.
Trit, trot, trit, trot.
This is the way the lady rides.
Trit, trit, trot.
This is the way the gentleman rides.
Trit-trot, trit-trot, trit-trot, trit-trot.
This is the way the gentleman rides.
Trit-trot, trit-trot, trit-trot.
This is the way the farmer rides.
Gall-op, gall-op, gall-op, gall-op.
This is the way the farmer rides.
Gall-op, gall-op, gall-op.
This is the way the old man rides.
Hobble-dy, hobble-dy, hobble-dy.
This is the way the old man rides
and down into the ditch!

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Baobaos Favourites At 30 Months

None of the links in this post are affiliate links. They're all small shops where we buy our toys from.

Sometimes I am completely surprised at the passage of time. Baobao is 30 months this week - 2 years 6 months - and I am amazed every day at the incredible child she is becoming. She was playing with her Yeye last week, and she suddenly didn't look like a toddler anymore. It was a glimpse of the pre-schooler she will become.

At 30 months, I'm astounded at how kind Baobao is, always trying to take care of Xiaobao, but also at how energetic she is. She loves to find out what her body can do. As such, many of her favourite toys involve her testing just how much she can do - be that in a gross motor or fine motor capacity. She is also very into games that allow her to connect with those around her, so most of her play actually involves being with adults or other children right now.

Here are some of Baobao's favourites at 30 months:

Homemade Playdough | Balls and Beanbags | Creatimber Balance Board
Puzzles | Outdoor Play Equipment (at our local park) | Ikea Plufsig Gym Mat

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Looking Back On Plastic Free July and Looking Forward Towards An Unknown Known

Two weeks ago, we completed Plastic Free July. In a way, it didn't actually involve as much change for us, as I thought it would. I suppose that's because this time around, we only chose to make smaller changes. Other changes seemed too difficult at this time, with two young children, and so we focused on making the changes that we could right away.



Our pledges and changes

Here are the changes that we pledged to make, all the way back at the beginning of July:


  • Avoid lightweight plastic bags, by always carrying reusable shopping bags in the front of the changing bag - We now always carry reusable bags with us. I keep one in my changing bag and Bo keeps one in his rucksack. We put them in the back of the car before we go shopping. If we are out and impulse buy, we always have a bag on hand. 
  • Avoid skincare products containing microbeads, by looking out for polyethylene, polypropylene, polymethylmethacrylate, PET, PTFE and PMMA. - This is a change that we are still working on, as we work through the toiletries that we have from before the challenge began. Our plan is now to go further and try to buy toiletries which do not come in plastic containers at all. During the challenge month, we switched to bar soap to replace body wash, hand soap and facial cleanser as they ran out. So far this month I have also replaced my shampoo with a shampoo bar. 
  • Avoid using takeaway plastic straws, by opting not to use a straw or bringing a reusable straw with us. - We now bring reusable metal straws with us when we go out, and use them at cafes and restaurants instead of disposable straws. We usually order water and ask for it without a straw to be honest, but keep our straws with us for that rare occasion when we might fancy something a little different. It is truly a permanent change made. 
  • Avoid using takeaway coffee cups, by bringing a reusable cup or sitting down and drinking from a real cup in the cafe - I haven't bought a takeaway coffee in a month and a half - I pretty much only drink in now, either at our favourite local cafe or at a local supermarket cafe. It has made for a little stress - its much harder to just leave when Baobao is overwhelmed - but we also prefer it, as we can sit and talk and have a little Mama/Baobao time.
  • Avoid using one-use plastic bottles, by no longer buying soft drinks and carrying a reusable water bottle - Another habit that is completely embedded now is carrying water bottles with us every where we go. 
  • Avoid using plastic food wrap, by storing leftovers in containers and making my own beeswax wraps - We store all leftover food in containers now and haven't used clingfilm in over a month. I'm actually tempted to give the one we have to my mother-in-law who will use it sparingly. 
  • Avoid buying plastic toys, by opting for sustainable wooden toys - We now only buy ethical, wooden/metal/fabric toys and only for holidays and birthdays. We have truly reached a point where we have everything we need toy wise, so can be picky about what we buy. You can read about our toy list here.
  • Avoid using plastic cotton buds, by buying cotton buds with cardboard tubes - We have only bought cardboard cotton buds recently and we have reduced the amount we used. Our next step is to look into reusable cotton buds. Interestingly in China, they use a teeny-tiny scoop to remove earwax, so it's only me and the children using them. 


  • Here are the pledges we have really struggled with and are continuing to work on:


  • Avoid buying new cleaning product bottles, either by refilling at a local shop that offers refills or by making our own cleaners where possible. - We have tried to switch to eco brands of cleaner, but have found that they haven't cleaned as well. A big issue was the dishwasher tablets, which still came individually wrapped in plastic, but did not break down or clean the dishes, so we ended up having to use multiple tablets in the end. Our next step is to look into making our own.
  • Avoid using takeaway utensils and containers, by ordering less takeaway food, bringing our own containers or dining in - We have actually managed to reduce the amount of takeaways we have, but are still having about one every week or two. We have changed now to ordering only takeaways that come in paper, such as going to the chip shop. 


  • Our Future Zero Waste Journey

    Although I can't know where our zero-waste journey will take us, I do know that our lives will never be the same again. We do plan to significantly change our lifestyle over the next year, by making small changes month on month. 

    Here are some of the ideas for changes we can make over the next year:
    • Make our own cleaning products to reduce the amount of cleaning products we buy
    • Move away from disposable wipes and replace with flannels and reusable wipes.
    • Replace plastic items as they break with plastic free options - such as brushes, cups, plates etc.
    • Slowly switch to bamboo toothbrushes over plastic toothbrushes
    • Replace toiletries with zero-plastic options as they run out - possibly making own where necessary
    • Switch to shopping at the local market, butchers and fishmongers, as opposed to a supermarket.
    • Only give plastic free gifts and wrap using newspaper or playsilks for the children
    • Just buy less
    Do you have any other ideas on how to live a less wasteful life?

    Saturday, 12 August 2017

    7 Low Resource Language Activities For 6-9 Months

    Xiaobao turned 6 months old this week. I have been doing little activities with her since she was a newborn (0-2 month activities3-6 month activities). We have found it's a good way to get Baobao involved with Xiaobao and to foster a loving relationship between the two. We're aiming for toy minimalism, so enjoy activities with little or no resources.


    At around 7 months, baby becomes keen to copy sounds. Her understanding also develops more and she'll start to understand single words that you use often, such as "byebye". This is also a great time to introduce baby sign, as babies begin to understand gesture and use it themselves around this age.


    Nursery Rhyme Time

    Children love action nursery rhymes. Baobao is no exception, her favourite currently being Tommy Thumb. Although babies can't join in, nursery rhymes are still incredibly beneficial. In terms of language development, they encourage listening and speaking skills (Baobao's love of Tommy Thumb coincides with her beginning to ask questions) as well as building memory and the anticipation skills.


    Puff and Blow
    Puff and blow games, such as blowing on your baby's tummy during nappy changes, blowing and catching bubbles or humming on to her fingers, are excellent for building feeling, looking and listening skills. As baby gets older, you can encourage them to copy you and blow and hum herself. which helps her to develop the muscles needed for speech.

    Yes and No

    Yes and no games, such as hiding a toy behind your back and asking if you have it then encouraging baby to nod yes or shake head no, are the first steps to intellectual analysis skills. They also introduce the concept of turn taking.

    Laughing Games

    Laughing games, such as fast and slow tickles, raspberries, round and round the garden and poking your tongue in and out, are excellent for encouraging a feeling of security, enjoyment and the interaction of play.

    Feet and Toes

    Feet and toe songs, such as 'This Little Piggy' and 'Wee Wiggie' are good for sociability. Singing songs while in physical contact builds friendliness and humour, as well as talking and imitation.



    Peekaboo


    Peekaboo games are great at this point in life, to help baby understand that objects exist even when you can't see them. This makes her feel more secure when she can't see you.

    Start with simple games of peekaboo, hiding yourself behind your hands and then saying peekabook when you move your hands away. The next stage is showing baby a noisy toy, such as a rattle and then hiding it behind your back, encourages baby to find out where things go when she can't see them. Then, once baby understands this game, hide the toy under a cloth and encourage baby to find it.


    Read, Read and Read Some More


    We are a high reading family here. Introducing books early, allows baby to work on their concentration, conceptual thinking, cognitive thinking and memory skills, as well as speech and friendliness. 

    Soft books made of cloth, with simple pictures are amazing for this age group. This is also a great time to introduce simple board books. Xiaobao enjoys books with real babies, such as Babys Day, Baby Talk and Global Babies, but now is also a good time to introduce simple stories with short sentences. Family stories, with parents, babies and siblings, depending on your family set up work well. You can even change the names of characters to match those of your own family and pets. This enhances your baby's own self image and her own idea of family.

    Thursday, 10 August 2017

    Using Our Toys List To Maintain A Minimalist Toy Collection

    We've been working towards having less at home for around 18 months now. When I look back on photos of how much we had Baobao's first Christmas, I cringe. It's good to see how far we have come, I suppose, but I still don't feel like we are finished. Our home still feels cluttered.



    The one part of my home I feel we are doing well in is toys. We are at a point where even if Baobao were to tip all of her toys out on to the floor at once, which she never does, we can tidy them all back away within 5 minutes. We don't have to rotate toys anymore. We rotate books, puzzles and games, but not toys.

    I try to make any new toy purchases really intentional. I try not to just buy on a whim, although every now and then I do end up buying something I later think I shouldn't have. Sometimes the prettiness is just overwhelming. On the whole though, we have a fairly small toy collection and try to only add to it sparingly. This also means I can focus on primarily wooden, ethical toys sold by small companies.



    One of those companies is One Hundred Toys. I came across One Hundred Toys about a year ago, and the philosophy of having only a few good quality toys for the first 5 years of life, really spoke to me at a time when I was knee deep in the KonMari approach to decluttering.

    I used the page to make a list of types of toys for each age group, adding things like instruments that weren't on sale on the website, but I still felt were important for that age group. Our own toy list based upon the One Hundred Toys philosophy, consists of about 10-15 toy types per age group. Many of these toys types overlap, meaning a toy that you buy for your 18 month old is likely to still be great at 5. I use this list to keep tabs on the types of toys that Baobao and Xiaobao have and to make sure I'm not adding too much of the same type of toy.



    Xiaobao's Current Toy List (6 months):
    • grasping toys/teether - Xiaobao has a collection of around 5 grasping toys and teethers
    • rattles -  Xiaobao has a collection of around 5 rattles
    • soft balls - We have a small basket of soft balls
    • mirror - We have a small mirror in the calm down area, plus another in the dress up area
    • blocks - We have some large, soft blocks, as well as the smaller wooden blocks from Baobao's collection
    • stacking toys - We have a couple of stacking toys that we have kept from when Baobao was younger, that we will use with Xiaobao once she is ready for them
    • sensory activities - I make treasure baskets out of household items for Xiaobao to exlplore
    • soft books/board books - Xiaobao has a small collection of books left over from Baobao. She also really enjoys when I read the books more suited to Baobao's stage of development.

      Toys from the list that Xiaobao doesn't have:
      • baby gym - Xiaobao rolled at 3 months, and only barely used the baby gym before that, so we passed it on to another family.
      • play mat - Xiaobao crawled at 5 months, making the play mat kind of useless. She now prefers our wooden floors for play. Before that I had a large blanket that she played on.
      • mobile - As with the baby gym, her mobiles (I made multiple beautiful Montessori inspired mobiles) became obsolete around the time she could roll.

      Baobao's Current Toy List (2 years 6 months)
      • Construction Toys - wooden blocks, Grimms Rainbow & Semicircles, Duplo
      • Vehicles - cars, Grimms small boat
      • Small World Play - train set, wooden animals, peg dolls, wooden scenery (grass, pond, tree)
      • Musical Instruments - Baobao has a box of different instruments
      • Puzzles/Games - Baobao has a box of puzzles and games for her stage of development that we rotate regularly. I find it difficult to limit this category, but we try to buy second hand from local selling sites or charity shops.
      • Role Play - play kitchen (with pots, pans etc but no play food), doctor's kit, fabric and a couple of accessories
      • Art Materials - water colours, pencils, crayons, chalk, paper, easel
      • Sensory Activities - We make our own play dough, play with water and use dry rice and pasta. Baobao doesn't enjoy messy play
      • Fine Motor Skills - Grimms tweezers, beads, threading board, laces
      • Gross Motor Skills - balls, beanbags, scooter, ribbon wand
      • Outdoor Play - we're currently working on our garden, but use the local park as a resource
      • Books - This is the other category I find it difficult to limit, but we rotate regularly and borrow books from the library to fit in with Baobao's current interests.

      Listing their toys like this, makes it seem as if the girls have lots of toys. We are really down at a manageable level now.

      Do you try to keep toys to a minimum? How do you use to decide which toys stay and which go? How do you handle holidays and birthdays?


      Tuesday, 8 August 2017

      6 Low Resource Intellectual Development Activities for 6-9 Months

      Xiaobao turned 6 months old this week. I have been doing little activities with her since she was a newborn (0-2 month activities, 3-6 month activities). We have found it's a good way to get Baobao involved with Xiaobao and to foster a loving relationship between the two. We're aiming for toy minimalism, so enjoy activities with little or no resources.



      Around 7-9 months, baby's understanding of cause and effect continues to grow and they begin to grasp object permanence, the idea that things still exist even when you can't see them. These ideas are vital to baby's understanding of how the world works.


      Read, read and read again

      We are a high reading family here. Introducing books early, allows baby to work on their concentration, conceptual thinking, cognitive thinking and memory skills, as well as speech and friendliness. 

      Soft books made of cloth, with simple pictures are amazing for this age group. Xiaobao especially enjoys board books with pictures of real babies, such as Baby Talk, Baby's Day and Global Babies.


      Peekaboo

      Peekaboo games are great at this point in life, to help baby understand that objects exist even when you can't see them. This makes her feel more secure when she can't see you.

      Start with simple games of peekaboo, hiding yourself behind your hands and then saying peekabook when you move your hands away. The next stage is showing baby a noisy toy, such as a rattle and then hiding it behind your back, encourages baby to find out where things go when she can't see them. Then, once baby understands this game, hide the toy under a cloth and encourage baby to find it. 


      Treasure baskets

      Once baby is sitting you can begin to introduce treasure baskets. Heuristic play builds language, curiosity, manipulation and concentration. 

      Treasure baskets are incredibly easy to create. Just fill up a bag or basket with interesting objects from around your home and let baby explore to their hearts content. You can create it around a theme - round objects, wooden objects, red objects etc - or you can just give baby a basket of random things from around your home. The best part about treasure baskets is that as soon as baby has finished playing with them, you can return the objects to their drawers and you don't have a million toys cluttering up their living area. 

      Here is one I created for Baobao when she was younger.


      Tissue Paper Scrunching

      Another great activity for babies is tissue paper scrunching. The rustling sound appeals to their sense of hearing. You can also let them tear the tissue paper apart, allowing them to work on hand-eye coordination, hand control, as well as cause and effect. It's high mess, but easily cleaned up. I tend to use packaging material that is too ripped to reuse for shipping something to somebody else. 

      Just make sure they don't eat it (Xiaobao would)

      Give and Take

      Around 7 months you can begin to introduce give and take games. This involves giving baby a toy or object and then encouraging them to give it back to you, sometimes by gently taking it, and narrating what you are doing the whole time. This helps to work on grasp refinement, as well as sharing and observation. We tend to do this as a part of baby groups, such as baby sensory, but is easily done at home as a cheaper option.


      Listen to the Music

      Classical music helps with logic, maths and speech skills and nursery rhymes help with speech, listening and friendliness. They all improve concentration and sense of rhythm. 

      There are a few different activities you can do with music with your baby. Choose a quiet time each day and put on some music. Lie down with baby on your chest, or sit with baby cuddled against you, and gently pat or stroke their back in time to the music. For faster music, gently hold baby against you and bounce and dance with them to the music. 

      Enjoying music can be as expensive or as cheap as you make it. You can buy nursery rhyme CDs for as little as £3 from the supermarket, or borrow them for free from the library, if you like to change it up once in a while. For classical music, buy a CD/mp3s or listen to Classic FM

      Sunday, 6 August 2017

      5 Plastic Free Containers For Carrying Toddler Snacks

      None of these links are affiliate links. They're just small businesses that I love.



      Since Xiaobao has just begun weaning on to solid foods, I have been thinking about snack boxes for when she is a little older. I'm actually contemplating getting her one for Christmas. We have Yumboxes for now, which are amazing, but obviously made of plastic, so I want to replace them once they wear out. Here are some metal lunch options I have my eye on at the moment. 



      Thursday, 3 August 2017

      2AM Breastfeeding Reflections

      As I write this, you have been latched on since 8pm.  I don't know if you are teething, getting used to your new found love of food or just getting over your big sister pushing you every time you come near her, but I know you must be going through something. I know you need me right now, and I feel terrible, because all I want to do is make it stop. If I were thinking rationally, I might say I'm feeling touched out or it's the beginnings of feeding aversion, but all I can really think right now is that I wish that just for this moment you weren't attached to me, that you were able to sleep to sleep on your own without being attached to me. I know though, that were I to encourage you to come off of the breast, you would wake up and cry within 5 minutes, waking your baba and big sister, who is sleeping at the end of the bed.

      So I don't. I leave you latched on. Let you continue to draw comfort from me while you sleep. I think back to our journey and think how far we've come. 6 months ago, I wasn't sure I would be able to feed you. Your big sister had been a good feeder, but I wasn't prepared for the pain and I gave up. I just couldn't face her and your baba stepped in with a bottle and that was that. In those early, difficult days, I wasn't able to get myself back to feeding her.

      Things with you were completely different. I was prepared. I knew just how much it hurt, but I was determined to see it through and then you didn't latch. You refused the boob. So I syringe fed and then I bottle fed and I expressed day and night. Except you wouldn't take a bottle either. You would just chew it and all that hard-earned milk would just roll down your face. It was heartbreaking and I knew if we didn't find a solution soon, I would give up again. With your baba returning to work, I just wouldn't have managed feeding and expressing and looking after your big sister.

      We were lucky though. With your big sister, we went to see a local lactation specialist. She made me feel awful and like it was my fault and was part of the reason that I gave up. Things have changed since then, although it's only been 2 years. Our local infant feeding team helped us through. There was one particular support worker called Kate who really got us through. She supported us when we needed supporting and referred us when we needed referring and I'm pretty sure without her, I would have given up again. It's a fabulous, free service that I recommend to any mother struggling right now.

      So we'll be back again at the next infant feeding drop in session that they run, to talk through how I feel and to look for some gentle solutions. We've come so far. I'm not ready to give up yet. You're not ready to give up yet. So even if I want to move to the opposite side of the room from you when you are feeding all night, I can't and I won't. We just need a little support to make sure we get through.