Thursday, December 20, 2012

Here Comes Q-ball!

  With the holidays quickly approaching, we will be headed to visit family soon.  Of course, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles- everyone- is excited to see Q-ball.  To prepare everyone for our visit, I wanted give everyone a Q-ball primer.  Her are her current favorite things and habits right now...

Q-ball is coming to town!  You'd better watch out!

  1. Q-ball loves talking.  Once she starts telling you a story, you can expect to listen to it for quite awhile.  Start practicing your charade skills now.
  2. Q-ball loves to eat.  (when we are not fighting yet another stomach virus.)  She can do an especially impressive job of eating ham, eggs, bananas, blueberries, etc, etc.
  3. Q-ball likes you to sing to her on demand.  She will say "de-da-de-da" and expect you to immediately sing the song in her head.  I suggest trying them in this order: "I Can Sing a Rainbow," "Wheels on the Bus," and, seasonally, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer."
  4. Q-ball will probably follow you to the bathroom.  If not, she'll at least talk about the fact that you went to the bathroom for the rest of the day.
  5. Q-ball is potentially a future track star.  If she takes off running to check out a really cool thing, a quick walk will likely not close the gap.  Get your running shoes ready.
We look forward to seeing family soon!

Check out what other kiddos are doing as the holidays approach at Vibrant Wanderings!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Our Three Period Montessori Christmas Lesson

  Given that Q-ball (nearly 21 months) is clearly starting to pick up new vocabulary words and has the ability to now focus on a task that interests her for several minutes, I seized this holiday season as a time to do our first more formal lesson. I used the Montessori three period lesson format to teach Q-ball new Christmas words.  And, we even finished with a craft!  She learned incredibly quickly, and we had a great time! I was shocked to see I was able to entertain a young toddler with this activity for almost 30 minutes!

Supplies:
  • Christmas book with clear pictures of the vocabulary words you want to present (I used 10 Trim-the-Tree'ers as it had very clear pictures throughout.)
  • Large piece of paper
  • Cookie cutters (some need to match the vocabulary words you've chosen)
  • Washable paint
The Lesson:
Of course, everything ends up in her mouth...
  • Step 1: Using the book, I pointed out new vocabulary words to Q-ball.  For example, I pointed to the snowman saying, "This is a snowman."  (We used stocking, snowman, Christmas tree, candy cane, bell, and star.) 
  • Step 2: After reviewing each word several times, I asked Q-ball to find the words in the book.  She was able to do this quickly.  (If you child is not able to do this with 100% accuracy, go back to step 1.  The goal is for your child to succeed, so you do not want to move forward until you have 100% success. Doing this over several days is more than acceptable!)
  • Step 3:  I then asked Q-ball to transfer her knowledge to other similar objects. We walked around our house, and I asked her to find the "Christmas tree," "stockings," and "star."  Finally, I placed all of the cookie cutters on the table.  I repeated each vocabulary word, and Q-ball picked out the appropriate cutter.
  • Step 4:  And now the fun part!  Using paint, we created stamps with the the cookie cutters.



 
Sources:
Montessori Mom. (2009). The three period lesson. Retrieved from http://www.montessorimom.com/three-period-lesson/
Montessori Print Shop Blog. (2012). How to give a Montessori 3 period lesson. Retrieved from http://www.montessoriprintshop.com/Give_a_3_Period_Lesson.html


Friday, December 14, 2012

A Toddler's Nutrient Needs

Interested in nutrition for your growing infant or toddler?  Check out my other nutrition posts here!
 
 The other day my husband commented, "You've gone dip crazy!"  And, it's true. I make us 1-3 different kinds of dips each week. But, we love eating them, and they are healthy. At least, I have been assuming they were healthy. I realized I hadn't done much research into toddler nutrition in quite awhile.  So, for this Science Friday, I will explore what the nutrient needs of a toddler are, especially working to find out what drives each of these nutrient needs. I did quite a bit of Internet research and discovered that there is not too much information on toddler nutrition, especially for nursing toddlers. In fact, most sources that focus on feeding children ages 1-5 do not mention nursing, despite the fact that the World Health Organization recommends that children continue breastfeeding until at least 2 years old.
    It is true that the USDA has a MyPlate Food Guide for children, and it's also true this guide does not mention breastfeeding.  Additionally, this guide places a pretty high emphasis on a diet rich in grains and dairy products derived from cows' milk. While no one in our family suffers from any wheat or dairy intolerance, we have seen and felt rather dramatic changes by limiting these products. So, I'm a little hesitant to use this as my only guide. The guide I found most helpful in determining a healthful diet for a toddler is published by the World Health Organization and is available here

Here's a rundown of the five most important nutrient needs of a breastfeeding toddler (of course, there are many more nutrients a growing child needs, but these seem to be most important for growth AND are those in which a toddler is most likely deficient):
  1. Protein, about 16g/day:  This is more protein per pound of body weight than an adult requires!  In addition to aiding with all of the growth a toddler is doing, protein helps a toddler maintain muscular strength, maintain health of ligaments, joints, and tendons, and helps maintain immunity by carrying oxygen throughout the blood stream.  Additionally, protein helps maintain brain cells to help with all of the learning that a toddler is doing!  Found in animal products like meat, eggs, and legumes.
  2. Fat, 30-45% of calories should be from fat:  Most adults run from fat, but it's very important for growing toddlers!  Fats surround nerve cells in the brain, helping to protect it. Fats also aid in the development of the brain and central nervous system.  Additionally, fats add in the absorption of other essential nutrients.  Found in breastmilk, dairy products, oils.
  3. Iron, 7mg/day: Toddlers are almost entirely reliant on foods other than milk and breastmilk for their iron needs as milk is not a source of iron.  As such, a study in 2007 found that 2.7 million children are iron deficient.  Iron is used to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body.  Toddlers with iron deficiencies are at risk for developmental delays, including retarded growth and learning difficulties.  Found in meat (especially liver), legumes.
  4. Vitamin A: Aids in bone growth and vision development. Protects against illness.  Found in colorful fruits and veggies- carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, spinach, etc. 
  5. Vitamin D: While most people believe that they get enough vitamin D from the sun, new studies are questioning this assumption.  Children especially need vitamin D to help absorb calcium to help build strong bones and teeth.  Found in fish, eggs, and fortified foods.  (Given that we eat very few fortified foods, this is the nutrient that I find is most difficult to ensure Q-ball gets enough of. As such, vitamin D is the one supplement that I give Q-ball.)

With my new knowledge of toddler nutritional needs, I still believe that my dips are a healthy choice for Q-ball!  Here are some of our favorites recipes with a bonus explanation of their nutritional value from yours truly!  (I guess that's the least I could do as I'm clearly borrowing all of these recipes from others.)
  1. Black bean spinach dip: This is a yummy way to get a toddler to eat spinach, a good source of iron.  It's bean-based, so it provides a decent amount of protein and fiber (which, while not mentioned previously, is typically very important for toddlers.) Another added bonus is the salsa- sources of vitamin C, like tomatoes, aid in the absorption of iron.  And, for those of you who are afraid of spinach, I promise you won't notice it!
  2. Chocolate-chip cookie dough: Yes, you read that correctly! And, yes, it's amazing!  High in protein, and with minimal sugar (I typically use 2-3 T of brown sugar for the whole recipe, but I've used less and added stevia drops instead.) Also, a great source of fiber.  And, if you use dark chocolate chips, you'll get the antioxidants in chocolate. 
  3. Sweet Potato Hummus: This combines two amazing foods.  Chickpeas again provide iron, protein, and fiber.  Sweet potatoes add lots of vitamin A and even more fiber.
  4. Avocado-White Bean Dip: Again bean-based, so good for protein and fiber.  The avocado provides extra healthy fats for your growing toddler.
  5. Carrot-Cashew Miso Spread: I found this recipe in the cookbook Clean Start.  The carrots are a great source of vitamin A, while the cashews provide fats.  The miso provides the benefits that come with all fermented foods- high levels of vitamin B and naturally-occurring probiotics. Miso is also high in fiber and antioxidants.  This is also a great way to introduce what might be the acquired taste of fermented foods to newbies. 

Sources:
10 nutrients that every child needs. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.babycenter.com/0_10-nutrients-that-every-child-needs_1201019.bc
Coleman, E.(n.d.) Very important nutrients during the toddler stage. Retrieved from http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/very-important-nutrients-during-toddler-stage-6328.html.
World Health Organization. (2009). Infant and young child feeding. Retrieved from http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2009/9789241597494_eng.pdf

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Watch Her Grow...

This Week's Focus: Language and Holiday Cheer


 
Interactions with Materials
  • We are, of course, still very interested in Christmas everything.  Books, music, decorations...
  • Her great grandmother gave her a nativity scene, and she has loved manipulating all of the people and pieces.  She seems especially interested in making connections between her books and the physical pieces.  
  • Yesterday we went skating for the first time.  She loved it!  Music, lights, and skates!  We used the over-the-shoe type, and they worked better than I could have imagined.
Interactions with Others 
  • Yesterday was one of our first public tantrum(s).  We met some new friends at a play area with a super, super cool car to sit in.  (The thing didn't even have a steering wheel, for goodness sake!) Q-ball did not like when other people sat in the car.  It made her very, very mad.  But, after this happened for the third time, and we again talked about feeling angry and alternative activities, she calmed down and seemed to understand (for that moment) that the pain would eventually pass.
  • One person that Q-ball does seem open to meeting is Santa.  Yesterday we attended an event where she was able to talk to Santa multiple times, and she happily walked up to him shake his hand.
Critical Thinking 
  • Her sense of humor creeps out throughout the day, which I certainly consider a sign of deeper thought. She is especially interested in mimicking other people.  A few nights ago she demonstrated to Daddy how Mama takes very deep breaths throughout the day.  
Interactions with Life 
  • We are having potty success every day this week- typically in the mornings and nights, as we are out and about during the day.  She is very excited that she is finally able to use toilet paper and flush!
  • The time has come.  This week, Q-ball started saying "no."  Specifically, "no, no, no," typically accompanied by head shaking.
We are linking up with Vibrant Wanderings!  Check out what the other kiddos are up to!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Pictures!

So, here are some pictures that I know that my faithful "readers" have been missing...



She moved these snowmen between two different flat surfaces for about 20 minutes- she just couldn't decide which looked best.


Other kids made gingerbread houses.  Q-ball ate.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Watch Her Grow...

This Week's Focus: Language and Holiday Cheer

 Blah! I'm having issues with uploading images right now!  I hope to send some out tomorrow!
 
Interactions with Materials
  • Q-ball is totally ready for this holiday season. I was quick on the uptake for this holiday after failures with Halloween and Thanksgiving and got our Christmas books from the library in the last week of November.  After seeing Christmas trees, Santa Claus, baby Jesus, donkeys, and snowmen in all of her books, Q-ball's favorite materials right now are definitely seasonal.  She's really excited that she now recognizes everything that we see out and about.
  • Another seasonal fav- Christmas lights. We recently went to our local Christmas tree lighting.  She was very excited. As I've said here before, it's really amazing to see everything through a child's eyes. On the drive home, we were able to go by more lights (we are rarely out after dark, so we had to make the best of it!)  Now, she sits in her carseat when we are driving and makes the "more" sign, asking to see more lights.  (Sadly, it's during the day...)
  • And, I'll include music as a material here.  We've certainly been able to make the most of musical appreciation this holiday season.  Q-ball now recognizes several Christmas songs.  By far, The Little Drummer Boy is her favorite, and she is constantly asking to hear "MMMMMMM!" Family might remember that I really dislike this song, so I've really been demonstrating unconditional love by listening to it several times and hour.  Q-ball can also do a pretty sweet version of Mariah Carey's high notes in All I Want for Christmas Is You!
Interactions with Others 
  • This week we continued shaking hands with people that were new to us, but she is starting to seek more interaction, especially with those her own size.  At recent trips to the zoo and park, she was eager to point out sights to other visiting kids.  It's fun to see what social cues she uses to get others' attention and then to re-direct it.
Critical Thinking 
  • I think we are in another language explosion here. (Perhaps this explains her (my?) difficulty going to sleep.)   
  • I know also have to remember that Q-ball remembers everything I say.  Sometimes when she really starts talking (and she really, really can talk a lot!), I'll say, "Let's remember to try to tell Daddy when he gets home," to have one second of quiet.  She'll say "doh!" (her version of yes), and when Daddy comes home hours later, she immediately runs to him and tells him the story.
Interactions with Life 
  • I'm working on involving her in more practical life activities.  This week she started feeding dinner to the cats.  She's very excited about it and now expects to do it every night.

Question for the day: I know that I need more guidance as far as introducing new materials and activities following Dr. Montessori's philosophy.  I know lots of you out there can help!  How much do you demonstrate? How much do you assist? Is a child asking for assistance indicative that the material is above her current abilities?  


We are linking up with Vibrant Wanderings!  Check out what the other kiddos are up to!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Watch Her Grow...

This Week's Focus: Practical Life and Language
Wow!  It's been a long time since I've done this.  Moving, holidays, and a lack of Internet connection make blogging tough!  And, I decided to take a little break.  But, a lot of growing has taken place in the meantime! 

 
Interactions with Materials
  • Still loving her baby doll.  She likes to make sure that her baby washes her hands before meals, goes potty, takes naps, and even take her vitamin D drops.
  • She has a small metal lunchbox and a little bag that she likes to carry around the house.  In addition to a loading and unloading them, she really like practicing using the latch on the lunchbox. 
  • Last week she mastered her shape puzzle. She typically can identify the shapes when we say them and place in them puzzle.
  • Balls!  Since she got to watch a few minutes of football on Thanksgiving, she has been replaying the events over and over. She acts out kicking and throwing the ball.  Daddy bought her a football, and she loves it!
Interactions with Others 
  • We are still a little nervous about meeting new people.  If a child approaches too quickly at the park, she often screams.  But, we've been able to hamper these fears by acknowledging that it's scary to meet new people, but that a polite thing to do is shake people's hands.  (She loves shaking hands right now.)
  • She is still baby crazy.  Whenever we are out and about she yells, "Baby!" when we see anyone under the age of about 18. 
Critical Thinking
  • It's amazing to see how much she understands now.  Before we leave to run errands, I'll tell her what we are going to do, and as we complete items from our list, she'll tell me what we are doing next using signs or her words.  Yesterday, for example, she explained over and over that we had to buy "meow yum" (catfood) before we could go to the park.
  • She's very interested in emotions.  I suspect this is largely because she is hearing more emotion words as we are handling small tantrums or expressions of anger/frustration.  Last night she enjoyed reading a book and pointing out who was "happy" (the first time she used this word) and who was "AHHHHH!" (mad).
Interactions with Life
  • We are certainly starting to see her enjoyment of established routines.  During playtime, she'll practice our bedtime routine. And throughout the day, she works on describing what we do.  And, she's always very excited to tell Daddy about our day when he comes home.
  • We are getting over a little stomach bug.  Thanksgiving food was too much fun, I suppose!
We are linking up with Vibrant Wanderings!  Check out what the other kiddos are up to!

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Pumpkin Challenge!

    This blog typically focuses on parenting or Q-ball, but one of the principles of Attachment Parenting is "strive for balance", so I thought I'd talk about one way that I meet some of my own needs for this post. To help celebrate this season and honor my husband's love of pumpkin, I decided to embark on a "pumpkin challenge" for the months of October and November. Each week I am making at least one new recipe that includes pumpkin. I love trying new recipes and exploring food blogs, so I've had a blast!
  A few real-life friends and even a blogging friend have asked me to share what I have made so far. It should be noted that while I love to cook, I cannot claim to have created many stellar recipes on my own, so these are pretty much all links to some of my favorite food blogs. But, in our household we typically avoid dairy, gluten, and sugar. And, I don't eat meat.  So, some alterations are necessary, and I've added my notes to the side. But, we also have a sweet tooth that we satisfy about twice as week...Enjoy!
  • Pumpkin Chai Latte- Forget Starbucks! Make this easy treat at home- it's even better if you make fresh whipped cream for topping!
  • Baked Pumpkin Penne- Here, I used quinoa pasta for a less-gluten and higher protein version. I used almond milk, reduced the amount of cheese, and doubled the leeks.  It honestly wasn't my favorite, but Daddy and Q-ball loved it.
  • Butternut Squash Pizza with Pumpkin Crust- I loved the creativity of this recipe! We just ate gluten this night.  I halved the amount of cheese and doubled the amount of brussel sprouts.  But, I love saucy pizza, and I think this needed more sauce. Next time I'd use a whole butternut squash- it was delicious with the sage!
  • Veggie Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce- I loved this recipe!
  • Pumpkin Cream Pie Oat Bran - I actually found this recipe in the cookbook Peas and Thank You and super loved it.  I didn't write it down before returning the book to the library, but this blog does the best job of explaining it.  The secret step she mentions it putting everything in the blender to make it really creamy.  Because of this step, I just used rolled oats instead of oat bran.  But, this blogger is right, you should check out this cookbook!
  • Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal - I used almond milk. 
  • Chocolate Chip Pumpkin bread- just a standard recipe for one of my cookbooks
  • Pumpkin oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies- A recipe I made for a bake sale and saved from a previous cookie swap
  • Pumpkin Muffins- Our favorite version of this classic.  I use whole wheat flour and reduce the amount of sugar and oil.
  • Boston "Scream" Pie- I've made this recipe for four Halloweens now.  It's delicious and pretty!  Wonderful for a party.  But, not at all healthy...


Q-ball painted her pumpkin while Daddy did the carving.


Who are you looking at???

Here's what's coming up:
What are your favorite pumpkin recipes?  I'd really love to hear!!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Watch Her Grow...

This Week's Focus: Practical Life

 
Interactions with Materials
  • We are still doing lots of pretend play.  Her baby doll loves to go potty, play ball, eat, go on errands, and even nurse! This morning I ate breakfast at the table with her baby while she ate at the counter.  But, she does let me know when her baby is not happy- she's developed a high-pitch cry for the baby.
  • She has continued to enjoy loading and unloading bags, baskets, and boxes.  This activity alone can keep her interested for several minutes.
  • I think she has started to want to work with real books over board books.  She seems to have taken a keen interest in the correct way to turn pages.
Interactions with Others
  • Q-ball is certainly trying to exert power over others. At the end of church last week, Q-ball stood at the door and pointed for everyone who passed to get out.  A similar situation happened at the park, where she dominated the water fountain, shooing away any other thirsty tots. 
  • It is interesting to watch her practice social norms like laughing or showing disappointment. When we read some of her books, she'll see something she thinks is funny and start laughing really loudly.  Or, if I do something she's not happy about (often...) she makes a little "oh..." sound.  I can only assume I do these things too- it's just interesting to see them mirrored. 
Critical Thinking
  • I'm amazed at her memory and the connections she makes.  When we are out and about, she'll see something that will remind her of something we recently did and work to tell me about it.  At the grocery store, she saw a picture of a tractor and happily pointed it out and yelled "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!" I think she was remembering last weekend's pumpkin patch and tractor ride.
Interactions with Life
  • We've had some more major potty success.  Yesterday, Q-ball actually started to have an accident and then ran to her potty to finish.  Certainly not 100%, but we have the concept!
We are linking up with Vibrant Wanderings!  Check out what the other kiddos are up to!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Less-Words Wednesday:Mazes and Pumpkins!

Last weekend we continued our celebration of fall by visiting a corn maze and pumpkin patch.  We had such an amazing time!  Q-ball loved running through the corn maze, and we actually made it through the first maze following her intuition alone.  However, by the second maze, Q-ball was getting a little worn out.  In this post, I quoted Dr. Montessori and talked about how young children can run forever.  Well, I think we found Q-ball's point of exhaustion as she started to stumble aimlessly into corn stalks.  

We said "baa!" to the goat.

Leading the way!

Exploring the corn stalks.  And, starting to get a little tired.

Q-ball was very excited to take a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch!

Selecting the family's pumpkin.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Watch Her Grow...

This Week's Focus: Language



We've been doing lots and lots of climbing!

Interactions with Materials
  • Q-ball has really started to like pretend play. The baby doll that Grandma and Grandpa gave her has been spending lots of time on Q-ball's potty.  Q-ball is even making the sign for potty the our verbal cue for pee for the baby.  She also has continued to enjoy the old computer keyboard and mouse that we gave her awhile ago.
  • She has started to enjoy art more. She likes drawing with pens and pencils.  I have not done a good job of setting up an art area, so right now it seems colored pencils are everywhere, so this is certainly in the works for our next home. (Yes- we are moving in just about 2 weeks!)
  • And, of course, we have continued reading!
Interactions with Others
  • Yesterday at a neighborhood playgroup, we had one of our first breakdowns with other children.  Who knew that a slinky was really so cool?  All of the kids wanted it, but the stronger 3-year-old took it from Q-ball.  Many tears and screams ensued.  We eventually got the slinky back, but then it was time to go, and again giving up the slinky to its owner was very, very stressful!  Q-ball was not interested in making friends with any of the other kids involved in this stressful situation.
Critical Thinking
  • She is continuing to practice speaking. She often attempts to imitate words that we say, repeating them over and over.  Additionally, she is clearly interested in new words. If I am reading a book and say a new word, Q-ball will often ask me to stop and repeat that word.
Interactions with Life
  • We (finally) got around to getting Q-ball her own glass cup for drinking during meals.  As she had shown quite a bit of interest in drinking out of a cup, I thought she love it.  However, the novelty quickly wore off, and she began requesting her straw cup.  She has practiced a bit and is getting closer to mastering drinking from a cup.
We are linking up with Vibrant Wanderings!  Check out what the other kiddos are up to!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Our Fall Sensory Basket


   Fall offers such amazing and incredibly easy opportunities for sensory play for little ones! Because we had so much fun with the activity last year, I couldn't wait to pick up some gourds for Q-ball this season. In fact, I've been making several "field" trips to the grocery store throughout the week to let Q-ball explore their huge selection of pumpkins and squashes (really I've never seen so many, so I like to check it out too!)  It's closer and cheaper than the Children's Museum.  And, Daddy helped add a special addition to the basket by bringing back some pine cones from our recent vacation.  Q-ball has even added her own pieces as she picks out some fallen leaves during our time outdoors to bring inside.



   Here are the skills I've noticed Q-ball honing as she's been exploring her basket for the past two weeks:
  • Touch:  With such differences among the gourds it's easy to explore different textures!
  • Sound:  Q-ball is able to make the well-known crunchy leaves sound of fall when she is exploring the leaves.  And, like any good toddler, she has enjoyed rhythmically banging her gourds around the house. 
  • Sorting/Counting: Q-ball has enjoyed counting the gourds and pine cones and carefully sorting them by placing them into a basket or placing them on a shelf.  At 18 months, she hasn't mastered numbers yet, but she chants a "nah-nah-nah" for "1-2-3."
  • Sight:  Of course, fall is best known for it's variety of colors!  While sorting by color is something we have not mastered yet, she has certainly seen the contrast between the gourds.  
  • Movement:  Q-ball loves moving!  Especially running and jumping! As with pretty much all of her materials, the gourds eventually made it into her wagon and joined her for circles around the house.
  • Balance:  In addition to moving her gourds around the house in her wagon, she was been working on carrying the basket, full of gourds.  She really has to concentrate to ensure that nothing falls out of the basket.  If she continues to be interested in practicing balance, I plan on introducing pouring and having her carry her plate to the table.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Music and a Baby's Brain

  As I have mentioned in several of my updates, Q-ball loves music.  "Music" was one of the first signs she made, and she quickly started asking to listen to music.  We get all sorts of CDs from the library (rather archaic in these modern times, I know...).  Sometimes we have the music playing in the background, and sometimes we dance along.  I've also created a music box for her with several instruments (maracas, a tambourine, xylophone, a castanet, and bells) that we take out every few weeks.
Q-ball, actively engaged with music.
   We explore music because Q-ball likes it.  But, I know that I've always heard lots reports about parents playing music for babies, even fetuses, because of its benefits to a developing brain.  I was surprised to read in Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, then, that these benefits are largely based on studies that have been overblown by the media.  The basis for what is now commonly referred to as the "Mozart Effect" (i.e., that idea that listening to music enhances brain development or increases a person's IQ) started after a study in 1993 at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh demonstrated that students received higher tests scores after listening to Mozart.  
     While the media latched on to this point, the lead researcher tried to point out that the participants in the study were college students (so, not babies), the effects only lasted 10 to 15 minutes after listening to Mozart (so, not permanent brain changes), and the test only looked at spatial intelligence (so, just one tiny aspect of intelligence.)  More importantly, in 1999, Nature and Psychological Science officially renounced the findings from the original Mozart study!  Despite many attempts, other researchers were never able to repeat the original findings.  Obviously, no one told the many music and toy manufacturers that advertise with these findings today!
   But, just because music doesn't increase a baby's IQ, doesn't mean that there are not benefits.  And, it certainly doesn't mean that babies don't notice music.  While the research into this field is still rather new, studies have confirmed the following:
  • Humans are innately musical and, even as infants, can use music as a form of communication. (We are the only such species.) 
  • Infants listen carefully to music and can pick up even subtle changes.  Research has shown music alters a baby's heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration.
  • Brain responses to music are identical in adults and in infants, proving that even at this young age, the brain is able to process music.
  • All cultures seem to have motherese in which people speak to infants musical tones. (To read more about motherese, check out this post.)
  • Early introduction to music does affect the organization of a person's musical brain.  So, early exposure to music may increase the likelihood that a person may be more musically inclined later in life.
  • Studies have shown that music can be used as a reinforcement to encourage learning.  Premature newborns have been taught to strengthen sucking, leading to their eventual ability to self-feed.  Music is also positively used to "cue" various activities to help schedule a toddler or baby's day.
  • Music can enhance listening skills, language development, motor coordination, and cooperation.
   So, how can you provide these wonderful benefits for your child?  The benefits of music are most seen when children are actively involved.  While music played in the background can change create a certain mood in a room, it does not necessarily encourage active engagement by the child.  To play an active role, a child should be encouraged to dance, sing, or make music themselves.  Even small steps like taking the time to point out changes in a piece of music that is playing in the background increases a child's active engagement with music.  
    Despite the mixed results from research, everyone seems to agree that music is a great and innately human way to bond.  So, perhaps the best benefit from music is an addition opprotunity to bond with your child!

Sources:
Fox, D.B. (2000).  Music and the baby's brain: Early experiences. Music Educators Journal, 87(2), 23-27.
Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R.M. (2003). Einstein never used flash cards. Rodale: USA.
Hodges, D.A. (2000). Implications of music and brain research. Music Educators Journal, 87(2), 17-22.
Standley, J.M. (2001). The power of contingent music for infant learning. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 149, 65-71.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Watch Her Grow...

This Week's Focus: Language
Here are Q-ball's 18 month stats:
24.8 lbs, about 65 (up from 23.5 lbs at 13 months)
33 in, about 80 percentile (up from 30.5 in at 13 months)  
She's obviously thinning out!  Her tummy is disappearing before my eyes, and it turns out she even has a neck under the baby fat!


Interactions with Materials
Listening to music at Oktoberfest.

She's starting to model for the camera.
  • I've said before that Q-ball loved books, but in the past two weeks, she has set new reading records.  She has been able to sit and read the same book for 20-30 minutes.  At this time, I'm the one that needs the break, so we move to something different.  But, within a few minutes, she'll want to sit and read another book for just as long!  We've done this several times a day!  In fact, she walked out of storytime while signing "book."  The librarian was saying a few too many nursery rhymes and not reading enough, I guess!
  • We introduced our Autumn sensory  basket with gourds and pinecones, and Q-ball has loved exploring it!
  •  

Interactions with Others
    • I think Q-ball has really made some gains with interacting with others. When we are at the library or the park, she always tries to initiate interactions with other little ones by handing them a book or a rock.  She's also much more eager to say hello and approach other little people.  I can't necessarily say the same for adults, but maybe soon.
    • Q-ball is baby crazy!  She started saying "baby" a few days ago, and now says it constantly.  Most books we are reading are about babies, and she loves looking for babies when we go out.  This morning someone passed her and said, "Hello, baby!"  Q-ball started looking about for the baby.  Apparently, the passerby did not realize that Q-ball is a toddler.
    Critical Thinking
    • She seems to really be near a little language explosion. I thinks she's saying a new word every day.  We seem to be up to almost 10 words.
    Interactions with Life 
    • Biggest potty learning success yet happened yesterday! She peed in the potty! She was very excited to get to wipe and flush just like grown-ups. Since this happening, she seems more eager to sit on the potty and keeps looking inside the potty to see if it's full- even if has hasn't been sitting on it...
     We are linking up with Vibrant Wanderings.  See what the other kiddos are up to here! 
    To see the rational and purpose for the Watch Her Grow series, please check out this post!

    Wednesday, October 10, 2012

    Less Words Wednesday: Socks

      When we are just hanging out at home, Q-ball is typically minimally dressed.  Frankly, thanks to potty learning, she's typically not dressed at all.  So, we really haven't bothered with socks since the newborn phase.  But, lately there's been a chill in the area (ok, it was 60...), so I decided we needed socks!  Q-ball found the Thomas the Train socks at the store and has been very proud to wear them ever since.  She runs around the house (carefully, of course- socks, we've discovered, are slippery!) saying "choo-choo" and making her version of the sign for train.

    Still a little groggy. No one likes pictures when they first wake up!


    Awake enough to show off her socks.


    Thursday, October 4, 2012

    Watch Her Grow- 18 Months!

    This Week's Focus: Likes and Dislikes

    This past week, Q-ball hit the 18-month milestone!  As usual, we'll be going to the doctor about a week or so after the day, so height and weight info is forthcoming. To celebrate (and to meet my goal of up-dating the baby book...) I thought I'd change up this week's update.  



     We are blessed to have a very happy baby!  I'd plan to list "likes" and "dislikes" today, but I realized that Q-ball pretty much rolls with the punches, and I couldn't think of many dislikes!

    Q-ball likes... 
    • Bicycles
    • Airplanes- we just got back from an airplane trip where she was excited to say we were going, "up, up, up!"
    • Any type of moving- dancing, running, jumping
    • Washing machines and dryers
    • Pretending to type on keyboard (and sometimes trying to work her way to the actual computer.)
    • Barnum, the cat
    • Nursing (she's gotten quite verbal about this request now, often chanting "ma..ma...ma..." while running around the house)
    • Trains
    • Old MacDonald (she's nearly mastered E-I-E-I-O!)
    • Jokes!  Her personality is really coming out, and she loves playing jokes on us!
    • Roughhousing with Daddy
    • Going to the park, especially if there is a slide!
    • Meat- who knew this vegetarian would have a kid that could probably eat more meat than Daddy!
     We are linking up with Vibrant Wanderings.  See what the other kiddos are up to here! 
    To see the rational and purpose for the Watch Her Grow series, please check out this post!

    Wednesday, October 3, 2012

    Less-Words Wednesday: Ah, Fall..

    We just returned from a wonderful vacation where Q-ball was able to expereince a bit of an actual Autumn. 
    Coming home is hard!




    Monday, October 1, 2012

    Easy, Independent Activities for a Toddler

    I've shared some images of Q-ball's Montessori environment in previous posts.  The materials I have out are typically rotated on a monthly basis, so Q-ball stays rather engaged.  But, there are times when I guide her to other engaging activities so that I can clean, cook, or take a deep breath.  Here are some activities we've tried that have kept her attention, if only for a moment...

    1) Felt Board: So simple even I can make it!  Just get a big piece of felt and tack it to the wall.  Using smaller pieces of felt, cut out various shapes.  These shapes magically stick to the big piece of felt! 

    2) Sorting: I give Q-ball a colander with small holes and toothpicks.  I model placing the toothpicks into the holes, and then let her take the lead. This activity is excellent for developing fine motor skills.  And, for practicing "clean up" afterwards for any toothpicks that somehow end up all over the floor.




    3) Sorting (Take 2): After completing the last activity, Q-ball actually thought of this next one on her own.  She found a box of straws and proceed to drop each straw in a hole in her Learning Tower.  Luckily I noticed rather early on in the box of 50 straws and was able to place a basket beneath the Tower to catch the straws.

    Linking up with Montessori Monday

    Wednesday, September 19, 2012

    Less-Words Wednesday: Camping with Friends

      We've been fortunate recently to get to take lots of short trips and explore our area and the outdoors.  This past weekend, we went camping with several other families.  Despite the months-long drought, it rained nearly the entire time! As you can see, Q-ball was able to fall into the river prior to rainfall. Fortunately, there was a nice house on the property for eating and cleaning up. Sleeping in the rain in a leak-free tent is rather calming, especially if Daddy is the one cleaning up the tent in the pouring rain!

    Still dry.

    Still dry, but getting closer to the water.

    Still dry.

    WET! (Why does Mama always leave the towels and swimsuits at the campsite?!?)




    Monday, September 17, 2012

    Our Montessori Closet and the Importance of Order

        About two weeks ago, I introduced Q-ball to her own Montessori closet.  I had been waiting for the right time to do this, and it seemed to have presented itself.  I had noticed that she was starting to be much more forceful in sharing her opinions- where to sit when we read, what diaper she wanted to wear (she really likes the cow design), what clothes she wanted to wear, and even what she wanted me to wear.  Additionally, she regularly cleans up after herself and enjoys helping me with household chores.  

      The design is simple- one I've seen on several other Montessori blogs.  I just placed a shower row at her level in her closet and use child size hangers for her clothes.  We hang everything but her shorts which are in a basket on the closet floor.   It took her a few minutes to figure out how to hang up the hangers and how to make sure that all of the hangers face the same direction, but now she's got it!


       Her closet has allowed me to reflect upon the two main principles of Dr. Montessori's approach that drew our family to it in the first place: 1) a child's freedom of choice and 2) a child's amazing ability to master (and enjoy!) practical life skills.  
       Q-ball has loved selecting her own clothing. It's true- sometimes we change clothes once or twice in a day because it's so exciting.  And, sometimes it takes much longer than if I just grabbed a shirt and put it on her. (In cases when we are in a hurry, I help by offering her two choices or quickly closing the closet door after she has selected one shirt.)  But, she really enjoys the process and has even started telling me stories about the different shirts or works to describe them with sign language.
       As for practical life skills, Q-ball is by my side when it is time to put up laundry.  She happily hangs up all of her clothes- very deliberately making sure all of the hangers are in the correct position.  This is important as she starts to enter what Dr. Montessori has identified as the sensitive period for order.  During this time, children between 2 and 4 love routines, consistency, and repetition.  Additionally, they are learning to respect their environment by maintaining a neat, orderly appearance.  I especially like how Lillard and Jessen explain the importance of order in their book Montessori from the Start, "...the reward of giving order is ordered thought.  Ordered thought can lead to simplifying what may appear at first to be an overwhelming task and transforming it into a manageable, even enjoyable, one."

    Source:
    Lillard, P.P. & Jessen, L.L. (2003). Montessori from the start: The child at home, from birth to age three. Random House: NY.
    Linking up with  Montessori Monday
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