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

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.

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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 does play look like for a newborn?

 

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(Photo via Donnie Ray Jones, Flickr Creative Commons)

Recently during a Facetime chat with baby J. and his abuelos, grandfather, noticing J.’s play space, remarked, “¿Qué? ¿No le compráis juguetes? (Don’t you guys buy him any toys?)

Con E., siempre la teníais en la taca taca, o con un juguete colgado en el cochecito. (With E., you guys always had her in the baby walker, or with a bunch of toys hanging in her stroller.)

So, what’s changed for us the second time around?

Thanks to Magda Gerber’s philosophy of respectful infant care, as well as the work of play advocates like psychologist Peter Gray, preschool teacher and blogger Teacher Tom, child delopment professor David Elkind, and RIE associates/bloggers Janet Lansbury and Lisa Sunbury (among others!), I have come to understand what play really is and why it’s important for children of all ages, including a newborn.

Wait, what?

Newborns…play?

Yes, from the day they enter the world!

So, what does play look like for a newborn? And, what is a parent’s role? Continue reading

A “yes” space: fostering independent play

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(Photo via Arielle Calderon, Flickr CC)

Let me introduce you to a concept that has been a GAME CHANGER for our family:

A “yes” space for E.

Although I learned about this RIE concept several months ago, I never actually implemented it (not sure why…) until almost three weeks ago. And, the results have been amazing! Continue reading

Home Tour, Montessori style

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Several months ago I wrote a post about how we invited Montessori into our home.

While I may have only scratched the surface of what Montessori means, I have come to understand that it is more than just a type of school or style of education; it’s a framework that guides my parenting, a new lens through which I see my daughter. Montessori is a way of life. And, that includes how I have prepared my home for my daughter.

Today I’d like to invite you into our two-bedroom city apartment. Not to show you the massive Rita Hayworth portrait above my credenza, or the random CraigsList finds I’ve scored over the years, or my 1940s record player. (I do love my vintage record player, though!) Rather, to show you how we’ve made room for children.

Before becoming a mom, I always swore that I would never, ever turn my house upside down to accommodate my kids. Call me selfish, call me vain. But, I guess at the heart of it, I didn’t want to make my child/-ren the center of the home. I feared having garish plastic toys screeching out the ABCs on repeat on my living room floor.

However, I’ve come to understand that accommodating a child in your home is not the same as making her the center of the universe. In Montessori there is a lot of talk about the “prepared environment:” “…Maria Montessori’s concept that the environment can be designed to facilitate maximum independent learning and exploration by the child.”

Today, I’d like to share with you how, through the basic principles of Montessori, D. and I have, little by little, made room for our daughter.

Those principles of the prepared environment are:

-Is each room safe for the child?

-Is each room accessible and welcoming to the child?

-Is each room clean, orderly, and peaceful?

-Is each room aesthetically appealing, beautiful?

-Does each room facilitate the child’s independence and learning?

E. is an equal member of our family, so it seems only right that she has a part in each room of our apartment, an indicator to her that she is welcome everywhere (minus my shoe collection…ha!) and a reminder to D. and I that we live with a little person with different needs than our own.

So, bienvenidos a nuestra casa.

Continue reading