Easter 2017: a lesson in less is more

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(Photo courtesy of Yann Coeuru, Flickr Creative Commons)

Happy Easter, friends! And, happy spring!

It truly is a glorious time of the year here on the East Coast of the US. Azaleas and cherry trees in full bloom, sunshine, birds singing, new life.  And, Easter, a very special holiday tradition from my childhood, one that I’ve always wanted to share with my own children.

I love traditions, both the high holy religious ones and the everyday ones that give rhythm to our days. And, as the parent of young children I sometimes find myself worrying “we have to create our own family traditions now while they’re young!! What are we going to do for (fill in the blank with a holiday) to make it special?”

(Since Halloween wasn’t really celebrated in my or D.’s families growing up, we’ve chosen to skip that holiday for now. And, we only this past year, E. being three years old, decided to do the whole presents under the tree for Christmas.)

My holding back, so to speak, on the whole holiday celebrations thing stems from my journey into RIE parenting, Magda Gerber’s approach to childcare. One of my favorite quotations of hers is “do less, enjoy more.” That sentiment, together with her reminder to parents that “earlier is not better,” has helped me worry so much less about when my children will accomplish X or do Y or learn Z.

Her words have also reassured me that everything in its due time, including family and religious traditions.

And, so, Easter 2017. My attempt at simplicity and less. Continue reading

How to select toys for a child’s play (“yes”) space

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(Photo courtesy of Andy, Flickr Creative Commons)

How do you decide what toys to include in your child’s “yes”/play space?

While I could have subtitled this blog post “toys for a three-year old” or “what toys to buy for an 8-month old,” I realized that that would be missing the point.

“When setting up your child’s play environment, age-appropriate space and play objects are important considerations. It is best to provide an optimal learning environment according to your child’s stage of development.” (Your Self-Confident Baby, Magda Gerber.)

What I love about Magda Gerber’s approach to childcare and play is her emphasis on the unique relationship between parent and child, one that is built on respect, trust, and careful observation of the individual child. What interests my three-year old daughter might not interest yours; the same goes for my 8.5-month old son. So, instead, I’d like to share with you a list of some guiding principles that I have used to create a personalized “yes” space for each of my children. These are principles that have helped me choose what play objects to buy – or not – for my kids.

Be encouraged, friends. Continue reading

From “agenda” to “relationship”: an update to my bilingual parenting journey

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(Photo courtesy of Futureatlas.com, Flickr Creative Commons)

Last year I wrote about my then two-year old daughter’s language development in Spanish. My husband, D., a native of Spain, and I are raising our two children bilingually: our family’s language policy is Spanish at home/among us four and English with everyone else.

With the arrival of my daughter E. three years ago, I began my bilingual parenting journey with what some might call a “hard core” approach: use only Spanish with my children, all the time. Never English. No translating. Promote, promote, promote the minority language.

As a trained linguist, I can cite all of the research supporting bilingualism. I recognize the advantages of a family language policy that supports the minority language.

And, while I’ll be the first to raise my hand with an emphatic YES! to the benefits of being bilingual, I have to admit that my initial approach to raising bilingual children rested on nothing less than fear and control.

Constantly running through my mind were thoughts like, One day she’ll realize that English is the majority language and hate Spanish!, or, She’ll probably refuse to speak the minority language to me when she’s older, or, What if she never becomes fluent in Spanish?, or, I will never use one word of English in front of her so that she is never tempted to speak it with me.

Fear and control.

I bought book after book for E. in Spanish, I devoured all the parent “how-to” books on raising bilingual children, I joined Facebook groups, I made sure to FaceTime daily with our relatives in Spain. I even started a blog on bilingual parenting!

Fast forward three years later to today. Continue reading

Sportscasting – the language of parenting

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(Photo via in pastel, Flickr Creative Commons)

When I first started this blog as a new mother, I wrote a few posts about my journey in bilingual parenting and learning the language of mothering, which for me is Spanish, my second language. Now, some three years later, I am learning a new, different kind, of language: sportscasting.

Sportscasting, or narrating, is a RIE concept developed by its founder, Magda Gerber.

In the same way that a sports announcer is trained to give an impartial, non-judgmental analysis of a tennis match or football game, parents are encouraged to sportscast, or describe, what they see when interacting with their children. Narrate, not judge. Reflect back for a child, rather than suggest or direct.

To give you a clearer idea of what sportscasting looks like in our home, I’d like to share when and why I sportscast. Continue reading

What is RIE anyway? And, what does it look like in practice?

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(Photo courtesy of Philippe Put, Flickr Creative Commons)

Happy New Year, amig@s!

As I was brainstorming for the first blog post of the new year, I realized that, although I’ve written a lot on certain aspects and parts of RIE parenting I have never taken the time to explain its core tenets.

So, I thought why not kick off 2017 with an overview of what RIE is (the eight principles below come from the RIE website) and what it looks like in the day-to-day life of our family?

Before continuing, let me be clear that RIE is not the only respectful philosophy of childcare that exists, nor is my family practicing it “perfectly” (whatever that means anyway). Rather, RIE is an approach to caring for young children that deeply resonates with our family and which has brought us immense joy, freedom, and personal growth.

Be encouraged, friends.

Continue reading

A “yes” space: an update one year later

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(Photo courtesy of Donnie Ray Jones, Flickr Creative Commons)

Last winter, I wrote about how the creation and regular use of a “yes” space transformed both my parenting and E.’s independent play. In case you’re unfamiliar with the RIE concept of a “yes” space, you can read about it in depth here.

Today, almost a year later, I’d like to follow up that post with an update to give you an idea of what the “yes” space has meant for our family.

According to the RIE philosophy, a “yes” space is a 100% safe, gated play space where infants and toddlers regularly spend their time. A young child ideally would spend all of his indoor non-caregiving (diapering, bathing, meal times, naps) time in this space. Its nickname “yes” refers to the idea that a child, while in her play space, is free from the “no’s” of “Don’t touch that!” or “Stop doing X!” It is a place where a child can move, explore, and play freely. It is physically safe (furniture is bolted to the wall, outlets are covered, etc.) and safe from adult interference in the child’s play and safe from an adult’s frustration because a child dumped over the trashcan or knocked the dirt out of the plant in the living room.

And, although it may sound contradictory to many (it did to me at first!), the child’s play space is gated to ensure his physical and emotional freedom (Montessori’s concept of “freedom within limits”) and to invite deep and imaginative play. Continue reading

What we’re reading, November

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(Photo courtesy of Christopher, Flickr Creative Commons)

Happy early Thanksgiving (to my American readers)!

The crisp, cool weather is finally upon us and with the shorter days, I have found we’re spending lots of our indoor time reading. No complaints here!

Here are a few of our favorite reads lately, books for both children and parents.

Enjoy!

Continue reading