If Your Kids Don’t Watch TV, You Are Not Alone

tots without techI made a decision two years ago that I’ve never regretted. No tech for my tots. Because we’re in the minority on this choice, I don’t talk about it very much. The thing is, even without watching shows or playing apps, the girls are still exposed to tech all the time. I’m a blogger for goodness sakes, of course they see my iPhone. I didn’t want to write this post from a position of authority and dictate 10 Reasons Why Children Should Not Watch Television or 8 Apps that Stall the Development of Infants. I just wanted to put it out there, that if you spend a day with children circling your legs and immersed in your to-do list, you’re not the only one.

If the thought of playing with children’s toys and entertaining them all day sincerely terrifies you, I can tell you that I am in the same boat! Hannah feels that way, too. She gives me about 8-24 minutes of solid focus and then takes off on her own. Generally in the morning she and Audrey play independently or together while I get breakfast ready. She pops in just in time to cajole me to put the food on the table and then happily gobbles her meal. After that we clean up the dishes. Some days I do the dishes by hand because it keeps Hannah out of the dishwasher and it takes a little extra time.

We have a helpful morning routine upstairs that stages our day. I open the windows and water the plants in the bedroom. Then we make the bed, brush our teeth and get dressed. Sometimes this happens at 8:15 and sometimes it happens at 11. I try to be flexible and follow Hannah’s lead. A few times a week we run errands or meet up with other Moms, but most days we stay home and hang. The girls are fascinated when I do laundry or vacuum. Truly, any household chore is entertainment for them and that makes it enjoyable for me.

When we play together, I watch, listen, and offer suggestions. She loves to hear stories so I generally read to her while I nurse Audrey. Sometimes I’ll put on my creative hat and reminisce old Blue’s Clues episodes for inspiration on how to play with Hannah. In our world, I am Steve, Elmo, Big Bird, Mr. Rogers, and Miss Piggy. I am awesome. Hannah loves to watch me cook and assist when she can. We took our time and made big pots of soup last winter. I will say that we spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Did I mention that I’m also Giada? When Hannah is with her Dad, he fills the time by building and creating in his workshop. This summer he is hitting the backyard hard and creating the ultimate backyard escape. Out there, Hannah, Audrey, and I can watch the Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie.

I do not think that the girls will ever be behind the curve when it comes to technology. Just from observation, Hannah knows how to identify and manipulate technological objects. My Mommy Mantra is based on Montessori ideas, so I’m happy to follow their lead on identifying skills to work out for children instead of learning through tech. Our life is far from boring without TV or Apps during the day. It is full of creations, hobbies, and peace. We walk, think, talk, share, laugh, and learn. I don’t know yet when I will switch on the Tube for the girls. I always enjoyed Disney movies as a kid and I’d like to share those with the girls. Hannah is turning two this summer, but I think I’ll wait for a rainy day. Although, we do like to play in the rain, too…

Cut Apples for Toddlers

toddler eats an appleThe easiest snack for me to get Hannah to eat is a cut apple. She’ll eat a slice of an apple that I cut any time of day, but usually she only eats a slice. Right now, that’s not a problem since I can eagerly gobble up any leftovers due to my increased need for calories from nursing. But, I got to thinking the other day about how much Hannah enjoys learning how to do things on her own and I figured out a neat way to prepare her snack together using a little Montessori inspiration. This is an activity that we can do every day. It leaves no waste and is simple to clean up. Plus, we’ve got a handy, healthy snack ready to head out the door whenever we need one. You could say that we’ve taken the old adage, “An apple a day” to a new level.

Cutting an Apple Together

Our journey starts at the top of the Learning Tower. Hannah Appleseed selects an apple from the lowest drawer in the fridge. If we’re preparing a few apples, we’ll wash them together in a bowl to conserve water. At this point, Hannh holds her peeler at the ready while I slice the apple in half, then into sixths. After that, she can hold a slice (or sneak her first bite) while I peel the remaining slices. Then we place each slice into a reusable baby food jar and close the lids. We store these on the lowest shelf of the fridge, next to her milk. She can reach for a snack whenever she is hungry. By keeping the jars in the fridge and returning them to the fridge right away, I can use them several times before washing. My favorite part of the activity is when Hannah climbs down from the tower and goes to the cabinet under the sink full of purpose. She announces, ‘POST’ and hands me the compost jug to toss our scraps.

Hannah loves routine and she does a great job carrying out steps in sequence. We don’t rush through this because we don’t have to. We make our snack early in the day so that it’s ready at any time. An older kid could probably easily keep all the apple pieces in the same container, but Hannah enjoys opening these jars and dumping them out. Once a day, she shares an apple with her little sister. At just 6 months, Audrey is only beginning to explore foods. Watching the two of them fumble with their fruit brings me a true sense of joy. The only way to make snack time even more enjoyable is to bite into a crisp, refreshing apple myself!

How Do I Do It?

babywearing momA lot of people like to ask me, “how do you do it?” I’m not sure if they genuinely want to know what a Mom and two babies do each day or if they are curious how I don’t lose my mind. Either way, I think this will show that I get through each day by spending quality time with my girls. I spend a lot of time just doing ‘anythings,’ but I try to give each girl focused attention for a solid block of time every day. Hannah and I work through an activity together while Audrey naps against my chest. We focus on what she wants to learn and I offer gentle suggestions if she stumbles. This little girl knows what she needs better than I do, so I watch and listen. She escorts me through all our chores (if I do them) and helps with the small steps. I’m not surprised any more when she begins to go through the actions of pulling out a cup or bowl. Sometimes she helps with laundry or changing Audrey’s diaper. But her favorite way to spend time is with her puppy. He captivates her. The two of them have standoffs from across the room and then chase each other around in fits of giggles.

Hannah is an incredible little toddler in my eyes. She’s not hitting any special milestones today or doing anything out of the ordinary, but she is inspiring me, as always. Hannah’s eyes are wide everywhere we go. Sometimes she greets others with a shy smile, but in familiar settings she takes off immediately to find the edge of the room. Her physical skills amaze me. From the sheer capabilities of a toddler motivated by her determination, she leaves nothing undiscovered. I absolutely love watching her ramble.

This morning, Hannah entered her playroom to find a vibrant collection of puzzles on the coffee table. They are the same puzzles we learn with and explore each day, but the display excited her. She immediately took the dolphin out of the sea and replaced him with ease. I dumped over a favorite gear puzzle and turned it around so that she could reassemble the pieces. We’ve spent a lot of snippets of time on various days working on color matching and affixing the gears to the pegs, so it was a joy to watch her work through the task on her own. She was so determined and pleased with the end result! We shimmied over to the next puzzle of farm animals. This time she took the liberty of dumping out the pieces and entertaining me with a rousing chorus of “E-i-e-i-o.” I asked her to point out the animals while she fumbled, without success to get the pieces into their spaces. She decided that the horse would prefer to attempt a daring feat of cascading through a hole in a box. Unfortunately, he was too big. All of a sudden it started to snow, so we watched at the window for a few minutes until snack time. Hannah repeated the words, “snow” and “cold.” She loves to watch the flakes fall.

I turned around to reply to a message on Facebook and THIS HAPPENED. Seriously, who says cell phone distractions are all that bad?

sleeping toddler

So I wrote a blog post while both girls napped and then I nursed Audrey when she woke up. We practiced blowing raspberries. She’s not really catching on, but she makes us both laugh with her hilarious attempts to puff her cheeks and PFFT. I helped Audrey stretch and bend her limbs and guided her through some baby asanas. After both the girls get their individual time, we just do other things around the house or outside. If Hannah wants to play toys, she’ll get engaged with something and I can step in. Since Audrey nurses at 9, 12, and 3, I usually try to have Hannah sit on the couch with me and read her a few baby books during Audrey’s meals. It’s a nice way to stay close with the pair. Hannah knows where Audrey gets her milk and sometimes she’ll sign for it, too. She is very attentive to Audrey’s needs and I like to foster that spirit. It’s really helpful if Audrey loses a pacifier and I can send Hannah on a search & rescue mission.

baby

Every day is a little bit different, but most of them are relatively the same. We all enjoy the familiarity of home and we all have similar needs that we can meet together. If we’re hungry, we eat. If we’re tired, we sleep. Got ya on that one, only the kids sleep. On days that are tough and everything seems to be off a beat, we all go outside. No matter the weather, we put on our gear and head out the door. The backyard makes a delightful space to explore. I can’t wait until this summer when we can troll around out there barefoot again.

I guess, when it comes to Motherhood, I don’t know exactly what ‘it’ is, but the girls let me know if I’m doing it or not. Raising the two of them is such an exciting challenge. We were chugging chugging for so long and I finally feel like we’re beginning to plateau out for a little bit of an easy streak. We know each other now. We know how to meet our needs and we all go to sleep feeling loved. In my book, I think that’s the ‘it’ I’ve always hoped to achieve.

GIVEAWAY + Coupon for Mama May I Learning Toys

The learning toys from Mama May I awaken creativity for the whole family. We recently received a bundle of the handmade wooden games for my 18 month old. These toys are the perfect tools to teach her basic skills about colors, puzzles, stacking, sorting, and assembling. That’s just the beginning of the lessons that Mama May I inspires!

Click the picture to visit Mama May I Shop

Click the picture to visit Mama May I Shop

From left to right, we’ve been playing with the Make A Match Farm Edition for toddlers, Bambino Bamboozles, and Little People Rainbow World. Hannah learns more about each toy every time she plays with the sets. I’m constantly amazed at the connections she makes between games, songs, sign language, and physical skills.

With toys like these, it’s easy to satisfy her growing hunger for knowledge. 

I like to let Hannah guide our playtime as much as possible. I’ll demonstrate skills I would like her to learn, offer assistance when needed, and provide gentle encouragement, too. Her cues show me what she would like to learn and when I oblige, she enthusiastically takes charge of the lesson. Here’s how our first experience with the Farm Animal tiles panned out:

Hannah noticed the new bag of toys immediately and set out to explore the contents. Her small hands fumbled with the bag until she looked at me and signed “please.” I opened it a little bit so that she could finish the task and she began pulling out tiles and setting them on the table. She quickly recognized that the tiles had animal pictures and sang her favorite verse of Old McDonald, “Ee-i-ee-i=o.” I pointed to a few animals and named them while trying to coax the sounds from Hannah. She offered “awooo” for the dog and “baa” for the sheep. She began to notice that there were two dogs, so I tried to show her more of the pairs. We turned the coins back and forth, moved them around the table, and then returned them to the bag.

Photo Source: Mama May I

Photo Source: Mama May I

A set like this offers open ended play opportunities for many ages. It’s great for identifying animals and sounds. Even swapping your question from “What does the cow say?” to “Who says Moo?” presents a new challenge for a child. Older children will enjoy moving the tiles around on a farm learning mat and imagining the job of the farmer or playing a memory game. Mama May I suggests this activity:

Need to put them to bed for the evening? Tuck them into their drawstring pouch for easy put-away. Or have you little one plop them into an empty tissue box – a game sure to inspire your little one’s growing fine motor skills with a rewarding clink. Clink. Clink. 

The Bambino Bamboozles hone fine motor skills and stack in surprising ways. This set is small, so I like to keep it in the diaper bag as a quick-fix to keep Hannah’s attention when we’re out of the house. How many ways do you think the set can go?

Photo Source: Mama May I

Photo Source: Mama May I

When I see rainbow toys, I immediately think of Mama May I. So many of the items in the shop feature classic colors. These sets are hand painted with child-safe paints, although Mama May I discourages allowing children to put these toys in the mouth. Sets like these are perfect for boys and girls. Children can learn colorful lessons while practicing balancing the tools. Flip everything upside down and start over for a new game or teach older children about complementary colors while mixing and matching the pairs. I love to watch Hannah explore games like this, but I am ever mindful of her tendency to put toys into her mouth. Some children are just wired this way, so having a fixed task like placing an object into a cup can help distract from that act. She announced her first color shortly after we played with a set: yellow!

Photo Source: Mama May I

Photo Source: Mama May I

Montessori learning can start at birth. There are items in the shop that feature bold geometric patterns in black and white to captivate young babies. Hannah and I love to play with the Tiny Tickler that I bought for Audrey this summer. I’ll wave the colorful ring around while tickling here and there on the two girls. Hannah giggles and says “Tick tick tick” while she plays along. This is one of the first toys she reaches for in her box of baby gear. Do you think that she likes it so much for the tickling sensation or for the enjoyment of playing with her sister?

I credit Jessica, the artistic owner behind Mama May I, as the inspiration behind teaching my girls Waldorf and Montessori lessons. Each toy in Mama May I has a vivid description of a lesson that you can share with your children. Let her guide you into a vibrant playroom filled with a million opportunities to learn.

GIVEAWAY and COUPON CODE DETAILS

Mama May I is offering Coupon Code ECOIN for 15% off your purchase through 12/14/12. Click here to shop now. You can also win a set of Rainbow People by commenting on this post! Simply click over to www.mamamayishop.com and let us know which toy would be perfect for your little people in the comments below.

You can earn two extra entries:

1. ‘Like’ Mama May I on Facebook, then come back and leave a comment letting us know!

2. ‘Like’ Eco Incognito on Facebook, then come back and leave a comment letting us know!

Contest is open to US residents only. We cannot guarantee prize delivery prior to Christmas. Winners will be announced 12/14/12 and contacted via email. 

Disclosure: I received a sample of each of the toys in the first photo in exchange for this blog post. This is a shop I’m happy to support through marketing because it is owned by my very talented friend. I’ve purchased toys for the girls on occasion and plan to continue that trend as they get older. All thoughts and opinions are my own.