5 Tips for Green Lunch Packing

It’s back-to-school season!  If your child brings a lunch to school, now is the time to think about how to pack that lunch.  If you bring your lunch to work, this is a great time of year to rethink what you’re packing, too.

Choosing the right lunch-packing habits can make a big difference in how much garbage you create.  Reducing waste often saves money, too. If you shift from eating out of plastic wrappers to eating out of washable containers made of glass, metal, or other safe materials, you’ll be taking in fewer harmful chemicals.  So it’s a win all around, not just for the environment!

Here are a few main ways my family makes our school and workplace lunches more environmentally friendly.  This is not a sponsored post.  All of the specific products mentioned here were chosen by my family and purchased at full price, and all opinions are our own.  These tips are written as if you, the reader, are the lunch eater, but they all apply to packing kids’ lunches, too!

1. Use what you have.

The greenest type of reusable item is one that you don’t buy new, because even the most ecologically-produced objects take resources and energy to make.  Here are some things I’ve repurposed for packing my lunch: Read more…

Centerpiece

Our nine-year-old Nicholas has been interested in home decorating since he was about four years old. I often get frustrated with his desire to set up things that are merely decorative, have no useful purpose, and just get in my way! I am even more irritated when he wants to buy things just for decorating. I like our home to look clean and pleasant, but I feel we have enough stuff around without cluttering up the place with decorations.

However, I have learned that sometimes decorations help to motivate the family–myself included–to keep a space cleaner and neater, so that we can appreciate the decorations instead of losing them in the clutter or letting them be obscured by dust. The dining table centerpiece is a good example.

Read more…

Vegetarianism and Animal Rights: Explaining to Children

Welcome to the June 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Animals

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about kids and animals.

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When my cousin Samantha was three years old and I was in college, I was visiting her family and we were eating chicken for dinner when Samantha asked, “What is chicken made of?’”

Her mother took a deep breath and said, “Well, chicken is made of a chicken.

Samantha’s eyes widened. To make certain she really understood what her mom was saying, she asked, “Chicken, buk-buk?” making a pecking motion with her hand. Her mom confirmed that the meat on our plates was indeed parts of a chicken who once pecked and said buk-buk. Samantha didn’t freak out, but she was surprised and sad and didn’t eat any more chicken at that meal.

The idea that people can eat animals startles many children when they first hear about it. Some parents want to prevent children from knowing that meat is animal flesh until they’re much older, to prevent objections that might complicate family mealtimes. I don’t like the idea of hiding such a basic truth about food from the people to whom it’s served, so I’m glad I witnessed Samantha’s response to this fact a decade before I became a mother; it gave me plenty of time to think about how I would handle my children’s questions about meat-eating. Read more…

Saving Money on Sports Fan Gear

We aren’t sports fans in our family.  Exercise is good, but we’re not much interested in playing sports and even less interested in watching sports.

But we live in Pittsburgh, a city with three professional sports teams that are a major focus of the local culture.  We can’t help noticing when one of the teams is doing well: We see people wearing black and gold even more often than normal, all the city buses have some slogan like “Beat ‘em Bucs!” flashing across their foreheads in between route announcements, and we know when a game has been won because we hear people hollering, “Woo!!” as they drive down the main street behind our house.  Sometimes even we feel caught up in rooting for the home team–after all, it’s in our best interest for our fellow citizens to be happy instead of dejected.

When our son Nicholas was four years old, the Steelers made it to the Super Bowl.  Attending preschool that fall and winter, he could not help noticing that all the other kids had Steelers shirts and the teachers were constantly talking about Steelers.  This was not the first time he’d asked for a Steelers shirt, or a Penguins shirt, or a Pirates shirt–these garments are popular even among the youngest children and typically are pretty sharp-looking compared to standard little kids’ clothes–but this was the point at which Daniel and I began to think it might really make sense to get him one.  We believe that resisting peer pressure is a valuable skill and have modeled questioning what “everybody” does, but we also remember the feeling of wanting to fit in with our classmates.  While we aren’t really into sports, we don’t think they’re a terrible evil to be avoided on principle.

The trouble is that official licensed sports team logo gear is expensive.  We didn’t want to pay $20 for a tiny shirt our kid would outgrow in a year!  But the cheap knock-off gear is not only less attractive and poorly made, it’s technically illegal.  Luckily, we learned two handy ways around this dilemma:

  1. When the team is winning successive rounds of championships, the merchandise commemorating the previous win will go on sale.  Nicholas didn’t mind at all that his first Steelers shirt said something about divisional champs.  We picked it up for $6 in the supermarket the week after the Steelers’ next victory.
  2. Kids outgrow their team shirts, and these tend to be sturdy garments that are re-sold in good condition.  There’s nothing illegal about this, as the team received the licensing fee at the first purchase.  We’ve picked up half a dozen Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates shirts for $2 or $3 at Goodwill or yard sales.

It works for me!  Visit Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Fabulously Frugal Thursday and Thrifty Thursday for more money-saving ideas!

My kid doesn’t have to wear a coat.

I’m an easily chilled sort of person. I like to feel warm and cozy, and being cold upsets me. In any given weather conditions, I’m usually wearing at least as many garments as the average person, often more.

My son Nicholas seems to feel warm most of the time. He’s often quite calm and comfortable in very cold temperatures. He has a decent sense of modesty and won’t run around undressed in public–he doesn’t even like to go shirtless–but he’ll happily wear a light jacket or no jacket, bare feet or flip-flops, one layer of short-sleeved shirt, in conditions where I think that isn’t nearly enough.

I decided a long time ago not to fight about this. I do advise him when the weather has gotten colder since the last time he was outside, or when the forecast calls for a 20-degree drop during the day. I occasionally insist that he bring along appropriate garments in case he wants them later. But I don’t force him to wear a coat, or zip it up, or keep the hood on.

Nicholas started teaching me about this a few days after he was born. Everything I had read about baby care said that your baby should wear as many layers as you are wearing yourself, plus a hat. He was born in December, so on our first day home from the hospital, I was wearing a flannel shirt over a long-sleeved thermal top over a nursing bra, jeans over cotton leggings, and three pairs of socks. It was a bit confusing to extrapolate the equivalent from his wardrobe, but I swaddled him in a flannel blanket over a long-sleeved knit jumpsuit over a T-shirt and diaper, knitted booties over socks, plus a knitted hat.

His face seemed very pink. He was grouchy.

“I think he’s hot,” said his grandmother.

Read more…

Why my kid never believed in Santa Claus

He never believed in the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, either.  There are three important reasons why Daniel and I decided, before Nicholas was born, that we were not going to pretend that any of these characters were real.

The first is that we didn’t like the idea of lying to our child.  We felt that claiming these characters were real, when we know they aren’t, would kind of make us feel bad.  Our child should be able to trust us.  Now that we’ve met the individual child we got, we know he’s a very analytical type who easily figures out what’s going on and demands full explanations of processes.  He was hard to confuse with things like Piaget’s famous conservation experiments even when he was a toddler.  The first time he ever saw a stage magician, he immediately started trying to figure out how to do those tricks.  If we’d presented the fables as truth, we’d have been interrogated with years of questions about exactly how those reindeer fly to every house in one night, where the bunny gets the eggs, etc., etc.

The second reason is that we wanted him to appreciate, from the very beginning, that holiday magic is something we all make for one another.  Christmas gifts aren’t brought by a guy in a sleigh to whom money is no object; we spend hours choosing or making gifts for our loved ones, thinking about what each person would like, as a way of expressing our love and respect for each other.  Easter isn’t about a magic bunny who brings us candy for no apparent reason; Easter is about Jesus and the springtime renewal of the world, and Grandma likes to send us some candy.  Losing a tooth is an exciting step toward maturity that is honored with a little treat, and there is a traditional routine for collecting this treat from your parents overnight using a special marsupial (Tooth Beary) crocheted by Grandma.

The third reason is that I wanted to teach my child my religion.  (Daniel does not belong to an organized religion, so the deal was that I could take Nicholas to church and teach him my faith until such time as he might tell me he didn’t believe it and didn’t want to go.  By age 3 he had decided he definitely wanted to be an Episcopalian, and he was baptized.)  If I told him Santa Claus was real, and he then found out otherwise, he would then logically doubt what I’d been telling him about God being real.  After all, the invisibility and super-powers of God are not all that different from what people attribute to Santa.  As I mentioned last week, Nicholas has shown no signs of doubting the existence of God but has remarked on the oddity of people believing in these other entities while not believing in God.

So, without Santa or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, poor Nicholas has had a really dreary, cynical childhood, huh?  Read more…

Answering a child’s questions on human origins

A while back, another mother asked my advice:

Tonight my five year old asked me, “Where did the first people come from?”

“Well,” I replied, “Different people believe different things.  Scientists think that humans evolved from gorillas.”

“What is evolved?”

“That’s when things change from one thing to another, like a caterpillar to a butterfly.  Other people believe in God, that he is up in the sky watching over us all and he created the first people. . . .”

So, what do you say when your child asks you about God for the first time? How do you incorporate scientific evolution?

These big questions are daunting!  Try not to worry about giving the perfect answer the first time; kids come back to these questions again and again.

My son Nicholas asked where people come from soon after he turned 3.  First he was asking how babies are made; I gave a basic explanation that satisfied him for the moment.  Then he asked about death.  A week or so later, he thought of “the chicken or the egg” question and asked how the FIRST baby could ever have been born.  I said something like this:

“Well, we can’t know for sure how that happened because the first people hadn’t invented writing yet, so they didn’t have any way to write down their story. Scientists who have studied the fossils say that all animals are related, and over millions of years, one family of animals kept having babies that were a little more like people than their parents were, and another family of animals kept having babies that were a little more like cats than their parents were, and another family of animals kept having babies that were a little more like turtles than their parents were, and so on until each kind of animal was very different from the others.  There are some things that are still the same among lots of animals, like backbones and fingers.  God is very smart, and maybe God made one main pattern to turn into all the kinds of animals and people.”

That gave Nicholas a lot to think about for a while!

Next time we talked about it, I asked if he would like to hear a story about the first people, and I told him the story of Adam and Eve.  This is consistent with my personal belief that the stories of the Old Testament are traditional legends of our people that contain important truths for us today but are not literally true representations of exactly what really happened.  Nicholas requested “the story of before the beginning” on a regular basis for several years; he enjoyed both my telling the story and my reading it from the Bible.  Not only is it a satisfying story of humans originating from the loving care of God, but it goes on to an important lesson about temptation, obedience, and experiencing the consequences of one’s actions, which led to lots of interesting discussion for us.

As for “when your child asks you about God for the first time” . . . all his life I have spoken of God as if we both know God and God’s existence is simply an underlying fact of reality.  We’ve discussed specifics of belief and practice as they come up, but Nicholas has never asked who/what/where is God.  He did not seem aware that there are people who believe God doesn’t exist until he was in kindergarten, when he commented to me that it’s funny how some people believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy but don’t believe in God–gee, that’s wacky, huh?  (We never spoke to him of Santa or the Tooth Fairy as anything other than fun traditions of pretending.)

I know that many people struggle with the idea that evolution and God-creation are two separate viewpoints.  To me, it’s easy to believe in both: Evolution is God’s Plan.  I love to read the creation story from Genesis because, although I don’t believe it all happened in six days as we understand days, I believe that it unfolded in that general order (there was light, and then there was matter, then water separate from solid land, then plants, then animals, all before people came to be) and that every moment of it was planned, presided over, directed, loved, and approved by God.  All the science is true.  But there’s More.  

(By the way–evolution is not like the transition from caterpillar to butterfly.  That’s one individual changing from one form to another the same way her ancestors did it and her children will do it.  Evolution is a species changing in a way that makes future generations different from the previous ones.)

Telling my child that we are both evolved from animals and created by God worked for me!

Should Your Family Be Child-centered?

This is a controversial and confusing question.  Some people go on and on about how parenthood melted their selfish hearts and made them realize the importance of devoting themselves fully to making their children’s lives perfectly wonderful and completely safe.  Other people go on and on about how children are hedonistic little leeches whose spirits must be broken to show them who’s boss, and responsible parents must schedule their babies’ lives in 15-minute increments.  Then there are a lot of points of view in between.  It’s very easy, as a parent in this fast-paced society, to put a lot of energy into getting everything together for your kid and suddenly realize you’ve been neglecting yourself–or to rush around Getting Things Done and suddenly realize that you’ve been treating your child like a task on a checklist and haven’t focused on his sweet little face for days.  Where’s the balance?

Well, I can’t claim that Daniel and I have it all perfectly worked out, but in our 8 years 8 months as parents of Nicholas, we’ve done pretty well with this basic attitude: “We are all people together.  We are the same in some ways and different in other ways.  Experienced people help newer people learn how to do things.”  Nobody is the center.  This is the approach my parents seemed to be using when I was a child (I don’t know if they’d explain it in the same words) and I noticed from an early age that some other families had a different attitude.  Of course, every family is different, but I think all families could work from the basic principle that we’re all in this together and no one person is the most important.  It seems to me that whenever I wander away from this idea–either by getting dramatically self-sacrificing or by demanding that everybody take care of me–it works out badly.
Here are some of the issues parents often struggle with, and the ways they’ve worked out for our family.

Is it child-centered to allow your child to eat when hungry and sleep when sleepy?  Is it better to have a strict schedule?

Read more…

FREE Earth-friendly Party Decorations!

Want to decorate your home for a party?  You could buy a bunch of bright-colored paper streamers or rubber balloons that you inflate with air.  These things are inexpensive, but they’re typically made in China by exploited workers in polluting factories and then shipped halfway around the world to you, wasting a bunch of fossil fuel.  When the party’s over, you can compost these things–if you don’t mind having those strong dyes in your compost (do you put it on your food plants?) and you’re willing to wait a couple years for the balloons to break down.  Another option is to buy mylar balloons and shiny plastic decorations, made (usually in China) from irreplaceable petroleum, which aren’t recyclable and will never biodegrade.  You could inflate your balloons with some of the world’s dwindling supply of helium, which we need for so many other more important things.

Or you could save your money, reduce your environmental impact, lighten the load in your recycling bin, and keep your kid busy while you do other things to get ready for the party!  Simply convert some scrap paper into festive link chains to festoon your home, like this:
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Read more…

Easter: Is it just a believing?

Huh, why am I still talking about Easter on May fifteenth?  Everybody knows Easter was way back in March this year!  Well, yes, Easter Sunday, the commemoration of the day when Jesus rose from the dead, was on March 31, but Easter actually is a season that lasts seven weeks in the Episcopal Church and some other denominations.  Our Easter celebration doesn’t end until Pentecost, next Sunday.  Alleluia!

A few years ago at this time, when my son Nicholas was four, he suddenly asked me, “Is it really true that Jesus got killed dead and then came back alive again, or is that just a believing?”

I was shaken.  I had been so impressed at his developing faith and thought I had done a good job telling the Easter story so that he could understand it, yet he was doubting.  Did he think it was just another story like “Cinderella”?  On the other hand, the fact is that believing is the main point here; we believe because we believe, because we have faith, not because we have scientific proof.  Hmmm, how to answer? Read more…

What to Do When Your Child Witnesses Bad Discipline

If you have any opinions at all about the appropriate methods of disciplining children, and if you are ever anywhere near any families with different opinions, someday you will find yourself in this situation: Your child sees another parent respond to a child’s behavior in a way that your child recognizes as different, which may be shocking or upsetting to your child.  What can you say to help your child understand what’s going on?

My son Nicholas is eight years old now.  We’ve used a mostly gentle discipline approach that focuses on explaining, redirecting, and using these strategies:

We sometimes get fed up and start yelling or say things that aren’t so nice, but we do our best to avoid being really harsh and hurtful, and we don’t hit him.  That means that when he sees another parent using harsh or violent discipline, he expects an explanation. Read more…

How I told my child the Easter story

I am an Episcopalian, raising my son Nicholas (now eight years old) as an Episcopalian, but I was raised Unitarian myself, so I’ve had to figure out a lot of this Christian parenting stuff as we go along.  I’ve talked with some other parents in the same boat, as well as some who don’t belong to a church but want their kids to understand who this Jesus guy was and what it all means–and one issue that comes up a lot is, How do you explain about Easter?

The rest of the story of Jesus is easier: He was born, and he was so, so special!  He brought hope to the world and reminded us to love one another, and we give each other gifts to celebrate that.  Jesus grew up and traveled around teaching the people to love and forgive.  He helped sick people be well.  He taught about generosity and trusting God.

But then the story gets scary and gruesome, and then this complicated thing happened which is often explained as, “God sat back and allowed his own son to be brutally slaughtered two thousand years ago because YOU are bad!!!” which might not seem to make a lot of sense but sure can make you feel guilty in a helpless sort of way, and then this even more complicated thing happened which easily comes across as, “He was only temporarily dead, so rejoice!!  Never mind about those sins,” and somehow it all has to do with bunnies and jellybeans and tulips, and–well, it can be a bit confusing!  I’m still learning to understand it a little better every year, and I am 39 years old.  So how did I explain it to my kid?

I started a few weeks after he was born.  Read more…

“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” Review

I was an avid viewer of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” when I was a little girl, and I renewed my appreciation of the show in my late twenties when I read that Mister Rogers was about to retire and programmed my VCR to record his final three episodes.  I enjoyed them several times before my son Nicholas was born.  Once Nicholas was old enough to watch television, we began watching Mister Rogers, both on my tape and on WQED, the public television station here in Pittsburgh where the show was filmed.  A few years ago, WQED took Mister Rogers out of the weekday line-up to make way for newer PBS Kids programs, but they still showed an episode at 8:00 Sunday morning.  For some reason, they only replayed episodes from his last decade or so–the program is basically timeless (except for the fashions worn by some of the “neighbors”), and I would love to share with Nicholas some of the episodes I enjoyed in the 1970s.

More than a year ago, I read in the newspaper that WQED was planning a new program called “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” based on the puppet characters from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood of Make-Believe and that it would be done by the people who made “Blue’s Clues” and “Super Why”–two of the most inane (though basically harmless) recent children’s “educational” programs I’ve seen.  I had a bad feeling about this.  Nicholas got really angry when I read him the article and showed him the picture of the animated Daniel Tiger:  “His head is too big!  His eyes are too staring!  And he puts on Mister Rogers’ sweater and sneakers?!  This is going to be dumb and horrible!!  And they’d better not replace Mister Rogers!  He’s still good!”

When Daniel Tiger premiered on Labor Day, I urged Nicholas to watch with an open mind.  I reminded him that this is a program for little kids, so if it seems babyish to him as a second grader, that’s not a problem.  I set my own perception filters on the most flexible setting I can achieve without intoxication.  We watched the entire premiere episode.

Well…the most positive assessment we can give “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” is that it’s a safe, adequate program for a preschooler to watch when there is nothing better to do.  It’s kind of cute.  It’s making an effort to teach positive thinking and a few very basic academic concepts like counting and color identification.  It depicts adults being gentle and helpful with children, who are respectful to the adults and cheerfully follow their instructions.  Fine.  But a program that takes on the hallowed name of Fred Rogers needs to be better than fine, and there was not a single minute of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” in which we felt the magic of Mister Rogers.  This mildly acceptable children’s program seems unaware of the gaping void where its soul ought to be. From its core concept on up, it is missing all the most important things Mister Rogers knew about how to reach children.  It imitates some traditions of his show in ways that only reinforce how little the people now running The Fred Rogers Company comprehend his legacy. Read more…

Babies and Television

Children younger than 2 years old should not watch any television at all.  The experts have been saying this for more than a decade, yet a lot of the parents I know think this is such an absurd idea that nobody could possibly comply with it.

We did.  Almost.  We occasionally took Nicholas to restaurants where a television was playing in the background.  We occasionally turned on the Weather Channel long enough to see the forecast.  When he was 13 months old and the Steelers were in the Super Bowl, Daniel and I watched about 15 minutes of the game even though Nicholas was in the room.

But we never, ever turned on television for him to watch before he turned 2.  When we were at someone else’s house and they had the TV on, we took Nicholas out of that room if at all possible.  I estimate that in his first 2 years, he spent a grand total of about 10 hours in the presence of a turned-on television.  We have limited his screen time since then (he’s 7 now) so that he averages less than 2 hours per day of TV and computer put together.

Why?  Because I’m a developmental psychologist, and I think those experts are on to something.  Early television viewing increases obesity and decreases school engagement. Early television viewing changes the arteries in the eyes, increasing the risk of high blood pressure.  Early television viewing swamps babies with stimuli they don’t understand yet find so visually compelling that it’s hard for them to look away.  The earlier television viewing becomes part of a person’s routine, the harder it will be for them to live without it–and watching television, though it can be fun, is in most ways a waste of time.  Even educational TV programs don’t teach very young children anything.  Before becoming a mother, I read The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn (see my review here) and was determined to protect my child from television.  Daniel agreed with me.

But then, when I was 7 months pregnant, an odd sound made by the elevator at work reminded me of the “Rubber Ducky” song from “Sesame Street”, and I suddenly felt devastated–how could I deprive my child of the joy of knowing Ernie and Big Bird and…and LOVABLE FURRY GROVER?!  Read more…

3 Good Children’s Books

Today’s 3 Books on Thursday theme is children’s books, and I am going to limit this list to just 3! Of course, there are many other picture books Nicholas and I enjoyed together when he was 18 months-5 years old, before he started insisting on chapter books for bedtime stories as well as on-the-bus entertainment, but these are 3 that have a special place in my heart because they continued to entertain me even when I was reading them to him 42 nights in a row!

Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber is the story of Ira’s first night away from home, at his friend Reggie’s house next door. Ira is really looking forward to it until his big sister asks if he is going to take his teddy bear. This throws Ira into a dilemma: Will he be able to sleep without his beloved Tah Tah? But what if Reggie laughs at him for still sleeping with a teddy bear? Oh, the agony! I love the dialogue, the dignified way in which Ira finally solves his problem, and the blotchy yet evocative bright-colored illustrations.

I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew is one of the lesser-known books of Dr. Seuss, but it is my favorite! The protagonist has led a carefree life until one day he stubs his toe, and then he begins to have other minor troubles, and a passerby (traveling in a one-wheeler wubble pulled by a camel) offers to take him to “the wonderful city of Solla Sollew . . . where they never have troubles, at least very few.” The journey, however, is fraught with troubles, beginning when the camel gets sick and starts to bubble so our hero has to pull the wubble. Eventually he is “crashing downhill in a flubbulous flood, with suds in my eyes and my mouth full of mud,” and it actually gets worse from there! It never fails to cheer me up by reminding me that my own troubles, whatever they may be at the moment, are not that bad.

A Picture for Harold’s Room by Crockett Johnson is my favorite of the several books about Harold (who appears to be a baby but acts at least six years old) and the big purple crayon with which he draws scenes and walks into them, creating his own reality. My favorite part of this one is when Harold’s use of perspective leads to his horrified realization that he is now only half the size of a daisy. How will he get back to his usual size?! It’s a great story about both the power of imagination and our power over it.

Check out 3 Books on Thursday and Book Sharing Monday for more writers’ favorite children’s books! See my recently expanded article Books That Blew My Mind for 29 of my overall favorite books!

A Doorstop from Reused Materials, Delivered By Airplane!

Today is the organizing tips edition of Works-for-Me Wednesday, but I have no new organizing tips to impart.  Check out my articles on Organizing Girl Scout Troop Information and Things Not To Do: Home Organizing Edition.  Meanwhile, here’s an idea for a homemade gift kids can use to surprise their faraway relatives!

In early December, my first-grader was looking at a book of crafts made from trash and came upon this idea: Make a doorstop by decorating a shoebox with scrap fabric or wrapping paper and filling it with gravel.  He wanted to make one. Read more…

Earth-friendly Nosebleed Care

My six-year-old son, who is slowly learning to be more independent during the night, recently told me in the morning that he had had a nosebleed in the middle of the night.  I changed his pillowcase–our linen closet is in the master bedroom, so he couldn’t have done that without waking us–but he had taken care of the blood from the part of the nosebleed after it woke him.

Nicholas established years ago that when he has a nosebleed (he’s prone to minor ones), he covers his nose with one of the cloth wipes we used with his cloth diapers when he was a baby.  They still are stashed in a cupboard next to his bed.  The flannel side is soft and smooth against his nose, while the terry layer is very absorbent.  Read more…

Explaining Addiction to a Young Child

You might think that addiction is a topic that wouldn’t come up until children are in late elementary school, going through whatever passes for drug education in their school.  You might be right.  Then again, your child might ask questions at a much earlier age after noticing that someone you know or a television character seems unable to quit using something that has obvious negative effects.  That’s what happened with my child. Read more…

Words my three-year-old made up

Nicholas is six-and-a-half now, but I just found a post I made to a discussion board three years ago, answering the question, “Has your child invented any words?”  I’m glad to see it again because I had forgotten 3 out of 5 of these!

Pretendstructions.  Read more…

Traffic Safety for Little Kids

We live on a quiet street, but just around the block is the main street of our neighborhood, which has lots of traffic, parallel parking along both sides, and lots of intersections where right turns on red are allowed.  Only some of the intersections have traffic lights and walk signals.  There are lots of useful places within walking distance, and the sidewalks are wide, but crossing the street can be risky.  A lot of drivers seem to think the traffic laws don’t apply to them!

When Nicholas began walking, I saw that he already knew (from being carried by a walking parent) to pause on the curb and look around before stepping into the street.  That was very helpful, but it didn’t mean he actually knew how to cross the street safely alone.  By thinking out loud, I taught him what we look for when we pause on the curb and how we decide when it’s safe to walk.  But informed decision-making ability isn’t the only thing you need to be safe. Read more…