Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blog Stats 2011: Who, Where and What!

I thought it may be interesting, at least to me, to take a look at my blog stats for 2011! Well, really they're my blog stats since starting my blog at the end of November 2010, but there wasn't really anyone aware of my little blog until later, so while the stats are skewed with that last month included, it's very slightly. I think this will be neat for me to look back on next year to see how much this site has (hopefully!) grown and changed. Here goes!

Peaceful Parenting is read in so many countries around the world, often in places that surprise and delight me, but these are the top ten, in order. I truly love how Montessori connects us all!

United States
United Kingdom
Czech Republic

Thank you so much to everyone who has pinned my ideas, shared my blog on BabyCenter, Facebook, in forums and your own blogs, as well as those hosting link-ups! The top sources of traffic from specific websites are as follows, in order:

The most popular blog posts on Peaceful Parenting this year, in order of popularity, were:

Our Montessori Home   with 2,196 views!

Work is calming   with 779 views
Classic Game Week!   with 771 views

Common Montessori Myths   with 425 views 

Other Stats:

The total number of hits Peaceful Parenting had in 2011 (this is amazing to me...):  39, 217

Total number of followers with Google Friend Connect: 142

Total number of "likes" on Peaceful Parenting's Facebook page: 292

I have been pretty terrible about advertising the Twitter account I started in late October, so I currently  have only 30 followers.

Thank you all so much for reading as well as for keeping me motivated to write and prepare more fun and educational activities for Tyler! Happy New Year and all the best in 2012!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Please, make a mess! It's good for you!

I am a believer in messes. I believe that messes and developing creativity and imagination go hand in hand. I think that children learn best though exploration. I firmly agree with experts that allowing a child to make a mess is developmentally important. Don't get me wrong though, I also really enjoy a clean and tidy house! Getting my hands yucky at all kinda freaks me out to the point that, for example, I refuse to touch dirty dishes without kitchen gloves. I also have to "suck it up" for Ty's sake in some situations if I need to demonstrate or if he invites me to join in. If he sees me modeling mess-averse behaviors, he's likely to pick up these habits himself. I truly do enjoy watching him really get into things though! There's just too much for him to miss out on if I didn't let him go at it full throttle.

If your child doesn't enjoy getting messy, head to the end of this post for sine tips that my help your little one ease into it!

Below you can see the creativity that unleashed itself in the first fifteen minutes of a painting session. While I introduced painting with balloons, the rest was discovered on his own:

: Balloon paint & hand prints,
Leaning over to make "belly prints"
Tray of paint on the head & painting "blind".

If I were to stop him, it would disrupt the flow of learning. As I watch him put paint in his hair, I know that he is creating quite a sensory experience for himself. As he shakes an enormous amount of edible glitter all over a Christmas cookie, I know that he will learn in a moment when he tips the cookie, that it won't all stick. Eventually he will figure out why, or perhaps I casually sneak in a bit of knowledge.

This isn't anything that soap and water can't handle!

In order for us to both be comfortable, we create messes in a place where I'm not concerned about potential stains or difficulty in cleaning. For us, this place in the kitchen or outdoors. I buy washable, non-toxic paints and materials just in case. I supervise to make sure he's safe, i.e. no large amounts of water or paint on the floor to slip on.

There's so much to  learn about mixing colours, consistency and texture... So many motor skills to refine...

To me, it's always worth it worth five to ten minutes of cleaning for the typical half an hour or longer session of discovery. I have learned to cover the table with an old sheet. I know to have everything for the bath ready just in case. Ty has been quickly trained on how to walk with his hands help up in front of his chest on the way to the tub to keep it off of the walls (though if he "failed" at that, it wouldn't be a big deal anyhow).

These cookies aren't only full of sugar and shortening, they're also full of toddler pride and pleasure!

I tend to give Ty an array of things to create with so that he can do whatever he is feeling, and to experiment in many ways in one messy session. I walk around the house and sift through closets looking for random items that may be interesting and use old standbys and your typical tools as well. He may choose one thing to use, he may use them all. Each time it leads to finding out something new.

Messy play, art in general, baking, and play dough often are known stress relievers. They're typically calming because you get caught in the flow of the moment. It quite possible put yourself in a meditative state without even realizing it. I know this of myself and believe it's true for Tyler as well. So many times when engrossed in this type of play he barely realizes I'm in the room, and I keep rather quiet to allow that focus and state of being to develop.

In our home, we create art for arts sake, not for an end product.  

If you can't even see the bottom of your tub, you know you and your little one have done an extra great job!

If this entire post seems useless to you because your child doesn't like to get messy, there are other ways to let them explore, and rest assured that many children break out of their mess-hating status eventually. Believe it or not, Tyler went through stages where he felt that Mama trying to get him to finger paint or touch wet sand was downright abusive! The key is to never force a child or make them feel weird about their aversion, but to ease them into activities slowly, respecting their qualms.

You can try squish bags for a mess-aversive child, using shaving cream, ketchup or hair gel.

Your child can try marble painting, which is fun art made by putting paper inside a box or tray with paint and marbles. Tipping the box will allow the marble to paint for them!

Give your child a brush to use instead of finger painting. Get some paint on your own hand and show them how it washes off. If the child is still unsure, providing plastic gloves is an option as well! Be sure to provide a smock or old t-shirt if they're scared of getting their clothes messy.

Providing bath paints may be a good option for some children as they are already in the water and can be readily cleaned off. Bingo Markers/Paint Markers are also fun and can be used with little to no mess on paper. I've also heard that Color Wonder finger paints have worked well for some children!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Safety Alert: Winter Coats and Car Seats

This is a bit off topic for my blog (sorry for the bold print won't change), but before so many of my readers head "over the river and through the woods", I wanted to share some really important information about car seats and winter coats with you. So many people aren't aware of these safety precautions, including myself until Tyler's second winter. Motor vehicle crashes are the #1 overall cause of death for children 14 and under and I hate to see a child hurt or killed when it could so easily be prevented.

The following tips on how to keep your child safe has been taken from sources such as The Department of Public Health, Car Seat Technicians as well as pediatric and hospital websites.  

It's not safe to put thick coats, snowsuits or blankets under the harness straps of a car seat because the straps need to stay snug on the child to function properly. Winter coats and heavy snowsuits change the way the child fits into the seat and they actually compress in a crash, which can create a lot of extra slack. This can easily cause your child to be ejected from the car seat in a crash or injured. The straps must remain tight on the child's shoulders regardless of any clothing. There are so many horror stories of infants and small children killed or seriously injured when ejected, even found outside of the car having gone through windows, their coats and snowsuits often still sitting in the car set. Car seats are only safe if you're following guidelines and the appropriate safety measures.

Tips for infants:
Bring your infant carrier car seat into the house after each use. It is actually unsafe to put young infants into a cold car seat as they can't regulate their body temperature well. Warm up the car when possible then dress the infant in warm, normal clothing like long pants and a sweatshirt. Buckle him or her into the infant seat and cover the entire seat with a blanket, tucking in the sides around the baby. Then you can put other blankets over the top as needed. Make sure nothing is behind baby's back! Many of the baby buntings and covers, though they say they're safe, are unregulated and often don't meet safety guidelines.

Tips For older infants, toddlers and kids in booster seats:
Warm up your car if you can before buckling them in their seat. Take their coats off before buckling them into the car seat. Once the harness is snug, put their coat back on them backwards over their arms or use blankets over them, never under. Polar fleece jackets often work okay with car seats, so think about this when buying a coat for your child. Lands End also sells a thin winter coat. If you can't warm your car ahead of time, carry the child outside wrapped in a blanket with a fleece coat underneath, or put them in both fleece and their winter coat, removing the winter coat once in the car.

For a really good look at why car seats and coats don't mix, I highly suggest the video below. It easily demonstrates how much slack is left when a coat compresses in a crash. 

Car seat safety is something that's very imortant to me and I'm grateful for a place to share this information. Tyler also will ride rear facing until he is uncomfortable or outgrows the rear facing limits of his seat [Why?]. Thanks for reading.  Happy holidays and safe, happy traveling to you all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Baking With Little Ones

I'm really not the baker in our home, or generally the cook. I don't mind either and rather enjoy cooking at times, but the kitchen in the home we have rented the last 23 mos is so outdated and "yucky" feeling to me that I've really steered clear. We rented from 15 hours away via the Internet (with only nine photos of the whole place) as we had almost no time to relocate. Despite this, I knew I wanted to start a tradition and bake lots of Christmas cookies with Tyler this year, so I've sucked it up! I plan to involve Ty in a lot more of our cooking and baking when we (hopefully!) move soon. He really, really enjoys it!

The following pictures show what Tyler's "jobs" were when baking this week. Not pictured is Tyler helping me measure out ingredients (it's hard to take photos while we do that!) and I just don't let him crack eggs. Raw egg just makes me too nervous right now! So far we've made Spritz Cookies and Brown Sugar Christmas Cookies and will make and decorate traditional cut-out cookies later in the week. My plan was to have Tyler help me give many of them away to friends and neighbors, but Ty has come down with a cold and I'm quite stuffy myself; I don't think anyone wants our potentially tainted cookies. I have no idea what we'll do with them all!

Pouring dry ingredients 


Pouring wet ingredients

Packing brown sugar

Scooping shortening from the measuring cup into the bowl

Pouring some yummy treats into the batter!

Though the batter was too thick for him to stir, it was interesting for him to feel how thick it had become.

Pushing the buttons on the cookie press

Decorating! I can't wait to let him decorate cut-out cookies soon!

So what has Tyler learned from baking cookies?

Following Instructions: I read aloud from the cook book which I kept in front of both of us, tracing my finger along as I read. I talked about how we had to read the recipe and follow the instructions to make our cookies, also showing him pictures of the end result we were working for.

Mathematics: We counted constantly as we poured a certain number of cups or spoonfuls and we also counted as we placed each cookie onto the baking sheets. I talked about each measurement, announcing what size cup or teaspoon we were filling. I also used smaller sizes that required us to use, for example, two  1/2 cups to make 1 cup or four 1/4 tsp to make1 tsp. and talked a bit about that as we went along.

Cooking Science: Tyler naturally learned that putting several ingredients together in a certain way can create something else. A yummy something else too!

Vocabulary: Ty added many more words to his vocabulary as well such as "flour", "teaspoon" and "mixer".

Relationship Building: As I quickly discovered, baking with kids is such a great bonding experience! Traditions like this are often carried on to the next generation and carry warm memories for life.

Confidence and Independence: If a child can go from a bunch of ingredients on the counter to something that the whole family can happily eat with as little help as possible, that feels really good! Tyler seems awfully proud after meals when we get to eat one of the delicious cookies he had such a hand in creating!

Linking with Deb at Living Montessori Now! and 1+1+1=1

Monday, December 19, 2011

One of These Things is Not Like The Other...

Well, now that, that old Sesame Street is stuck in some of my reader's heads, on to the activity! This is another really simple one to put together yet so great for visual discrimination and cognitive strenghtening! 

Can you find the sticker that doesn't match the others in each strip?

To create this activity, I cut strips of card stock with my paper cutter. I then searched around in Tyler's sticker box and found stickers that had many "matches" and one that was similar in some way but not the same. Some are easier than others. I wanted him to have easier strips to give him confidence for the more challenging ones.

In the photo above I used garage sale stickers and wrote letters on each. As you can see, one letter doesn't match, but it takes a bit of searching for little brains. Ty is very visual, so I figured he could handle it. This also strenghtens his letter recognition.

In this set I used:
 Red apples with one red leaf
Fish with one sea shell
 A pattern of blue and red stars with one green

In this set:
Baseballs and one basketball
Snowmen and one reindeer
Small basketballs with one larger basketball

We've only tried this activity once so far, but he really enjoyed it. I've had this idea for some time, but went ahead with it now because he has shown how much he enjoys noticing when something doesn't belong in a certain spot. When working with his mini cylinders for example, he will purposely pretend to put them in the incorrect spaces saying "no", "no", "no", and then save the correct space for last saying "yes!". He is all about being silly in this and many other ways, and calling things silly is a new favorite type of phrase. I figured this wouldn't seem like learning or work to him, but a way to point out how silly it is for the oddball to be there...and thankfully I was right!  

For more great ideas, please visit One Hook Wonder, Living Montessori NowThe Imagination Tree and 1+1+1+1

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Words with Cheerios

Tyler is a Cheerio Monster. It boggles my mind how many he can eat in one sitting, often requesting them after eating a full meal! The other day, as I snacked alongside him, I started fiddling around and making letters and words with him for fun. He was instantly intrigued and now asks for me to do this every time he eats Cheerios, which is at least three times a day. I'm okay with it! It's a bit better than asking us read cereal boxes over and over the way he did when he was an older infant!

His favorite word for me to create and spell out for him is "dog". He requests this one a lot. As I create each letter I talk about how I'm forming it and say the letter sounds several times as I go along. I start putting the sounds together to form the word once I have two letters.

Now if I ask him which letter comes next in the common words I "write", he can sometimes tell me. He is especially fond of telling me where "t" goes in "cat". While this may not be the best way to learn sight words, he finds it fun! I've created sight words with his Sandpaper Letters a few times recently and he wasn't as impressed. I think now would be a great time to try again though! He has shown interest in letters and words and knows so many sounds, but finding a way to really interest him is quite tricky!

I also show him how to put Cheerios around the circles on his placemat to form circles or the sound "aw"..

 And show him how if we give "aw" a tiny tail, it makes the "a" sound...

Then if we add a line straight up on the right side, it then makes the "d" sound...

And if we put a curvy tail on "aw" it makes "g"!

I don't really expect Tyler to start forming letters and words with Cheerios, but it is fun for him and it give him awareness on letter forms and letters combining to make words! I love snack and meal time as a period of learning. He is usually sitting still and is a focuses very well on whatever you're saying or showing him while he munches!