Monday 31 August 2015

The importance of role play

Role play is a hugely important part of children's development. One of my nanny families expressed a huge interest in their child (aged 3) learning maths and the alphabet and were concerned that all their son seemed to do at nursery was play...

I took a deep breath and explained to them the importance of play at this age, how valuable it is to children and the many areas it can help to develop. I could go on and on but I will try in this post to just focus on role play. 

This came up at home today, because Seb recently got some Playmobile for his 2nd birthday, which he absolutely loves. He has named one Seb, one Mummy (the pregnant one... clever boy ;-) and one Daddy. He put them all in the car today, all that is except Mummy who was put on the doormat. Now, if you have read some of my other posts, you will know that this is our time out spot. 
'Oh dear!' I exclaimed. 'What has Mummy done? Is she sitting on the doormat?'
'Hitting,' was the response. He then walked into the lounge and shut the door to the hall, as we would do when he has time out. I asked him who mummy hit to which he replied 'Daddy.' Daddy and I had a little giggle at this, whilst also secretly hoping that this wasn't a conversation that went on outside the house and just for the record... Mr. NQP and I do not hit each other (or anyone for that matter)! We then discussed with Seb what should happen next and concluded that Playmobile Mummy needed to say sorry to Playmobile Daddy because hitting is unkind and then it would be time to move on and they can go on their trip in the car (which was the original plan!) Seb diligently went and spoke to Playmobile Mummy and she said sorry to Daddy and got in the car. 

It was brilliant to watch, as Seb has recently (since he got the memo about being two and therefore terrible) been hitting a lot. People, toys, books, chairs, anything that frustrates him. On this particular day he had been to the doormat twice for hitting, so to see him role play it out, with him being on the other side of the battle was really interesting and hopefully a development in his understanding of hitting. Watch this space. 

Though sometimes confusing and frustrating, it is important to allow children to navigate these role plays (rather than me saying, 'no! Mummy hasn't been naughty.' Or 'mummies don't sit on the doormat!') Role play is how children explore situations that they are endeavouring to make sense of. This 'making sense of' is often why children enjoy role playing dramatic situations that they are unlikely to have been in, like policemen, firemen and paramedics, but also those 'close to home' situations like mummies and daddies. Some children like to physically be each character through dressing up and some prefer to role play with figures like dolls or Playmobile. Both are valuable and neither is better than the other. Children are also able in these types of situations to stretch their imaginations and explore further situations. This is something that I pointed out to my nanny family, developing imagination is vital for all different aspects of learning, not just literacy but as wide spread as creative problem solving (key for the keen mathematician father!)

So the key points are:
  1. Indulge your children's role play, it is an amazing insight into how they perceived a situation and also how they may resolve one. 
  2. Don't be concerned when they take examples to the extreme. This is really normal and is usually just children flexing their imagination. 
  3. Provide role play opportunities. Toy people of some sort or dressing up make a great addition to any set of children's toys. We chose Playmobile because it is something that can be added to over many birthdays and Christmases and has many different settings (i.e. home, hotel, pirate ship, playground etc!) and can be played with for many many years to come!

If you would like to know more about role play, KiddyChart has some great info on her blog here... 

Don't forget you can comment below if you would like to know more or if you have any other links which might be useful!


Thursday 27 August 2015

What about me? Post labour must haves...

There are endless lists and blog posts about what you actually need for a newborn baby. It is usually significantly shorter than the list most shops would like you to have... but that is not to say that other 'non essential' items can't come in handy too!

I thought it might be useful to think about the things that you will need for you after having a baby. After baby number one, I felt I was totally prepared for looking after a new born (OK, being a nanny before hand probably had a lot to do with that... I am also blessed with an amazingly supportive family on both sides!) But I felt woefully unprepared for how I would feel post labour. I mean, when you apply logic, it makes sense that your body might feel just a little traumatised after pushing a little one out... but I suppose at the time you are so busy thinking about what your little baby will be like and need, you forget about you.

So, if you have had a baby you probably know a lot of these things, but maybe pass them on to your friends who are having babies and maybe add to the list if you think there is something I missed.

  1. Arnica tablets.  You will be a little battered, bruised and swollen down there. Start taking these as soon as you can post labour. They do not recommend you take them whilst breastfeeding, but I know this is something midwives often recommend breastfeeding or not, so maybe consult yours if you aren't sure.
  2. A LOT of maternity pads. You really can't have to many, personal choice for me was Sainsbury, they were comfortable and inexpensive but I definitely didn't buy enough and had to keep sending people to get me more.
  3. Big pants. You will want something soft and not too tight fitting and smart money says buy black... just incase. 
  4. Flax seed.  I ate porridge with blueberries, banana and honey for breakfast for the first couple of weeks, sprinkled with a good tablespoon of flax seed  The first number two after having a baby is fairly terrifying, and you may well feel like your whole insides might fall out with the pressure. Flax seed is really good at getting everything moving and helps to prevent you from getting constipated. 
  5. Comfy leggings. I couldn't put jeans (even maternity ones) on for probably two weeks. Admittedly I had an infection which didn't help, but I just couldn't bear the tightness of jeans so lived in a variety of leggings and different shirts/ long tops. 
  6. Vest tops. Cheap and cheerful vest tops if you are breastfeeding will be your best friend. I didn't get on very well with any of the breastfeeding specific type tops and personally I find them to be ridiculously expensive. I far preferred to wear two tops, the top (usually a looser type) would lift up and the under one would pull down. This isn't particularly good for the straps, hence the cheap variety being key! It meant I could feed anywhere with modesty and ease!
  7. Good food in the freezer.  Whether you want to batch cook before or buy a bunch of Cook meals (they do a 10% discount for new mums!)  it is worth having a variety in. It is so important for your recovery and your milk if you are feeding that you eat well during this time. 
  8. Tea and coffee.  You will get a ton of visitors when the wee one arrives, so be prepared! 

I hope this helps prepare you for your new baby! 


Tuesday 11 August 2015

5 Top Tips for managing those terrifying toddler tantrums

Sometimes you just don’t see a toddler tantrum coming. Sometimes, something they do every day becomes something worth throwing themselves on the floor over and no one really knows why!

Sometimes however, they are preventable and all it takes is being a little proactive and having some foresight. Often it is similar situations that occur that cause the tantrum, now I am no advocate of changing your entire life to suit your toddlers latest whim… but there are often very small adaptations you can make.

  1. Give your child choice. I don’t mean free reign to choose anything, but if the latest tantrum is about shoes, then offer two pairs and ask them to choose which they prefer. If you are already at the brink of a tantrum then you can still offer children a choice, ‘are you going to go on your scooter or hold mummys hand?’ (because sitting on the pavement isn’t really a viable option) or ‘are you going to help mummy choose the cheese in the supermarket? Shall we choose the red packet or the blue packet?’ Choice works as both a distraction technique and also prevents children from feeling trapped and dictated to. Children like to be able to exercise some control and this allows them to within the confines of what both fits in with your life and is safe. Always follow up with ‘good choice!’ Seb regularly congratulates me on my good choice so clearly I use those words a lot!
  2. Pick your battles. This is a tough one, you have to choose the things that matter most to you and work on those and then work backwards to the others; remembering that lots of experiences for toddlers are new ones. 
  3. Be consistent. This is where picking your battles is tricky and why you have to plan a little in advance what matters most (this is the foresight we talked about earlier!) If you really want them to sit on their bottom through the whole meal then that needs to happen and there needs to be warnings and consequences when it doesn’t. (See my time out article here
  4. Communicate. If you've read many of my articles, you may be noticing a theme here. Communicate to your child what it is you are asking them to do. Or ask them to use their words so that you can help them. Lots of toddler tantrums leave us completely bewildered as to where they came from. I often find myself saying 'I want to help you, but I can't if you don't tell me what the problem is.' This is really empowering for children, sometimes they are confused by the world they are in and they just need acknowledging that it is OK to do what they are doing. Of course if what they are doing is not ok, then refer back to the previous points!
  5. Stay calm. Admittedly, this is easier said than done. Tantrums often happen on days where you feel least equipped to manage them (this possibly is because we as mothers are tired from whatever sort of night we've had, so maybe haven't dealt with the moments leading up to this in the best possible way... but turns out, we are human too!) I find tantrums are most quickly resolved when I stay calm, using a stern voice without shouting, they are over much more quickly than when everything escalates to shouting. If you start shouting, you've got no where to go, so try and reserve it if you can. 
Do you have any questions about toddler tantrums? Maybe there is an area you feel I haven't covered. Do let me know in the comments box below!


Monday 10 August 2015

Tackling Time Out

I am not a huge fan of the term ‘naughty step’. I believe in the importance of labelling a child’s behaviour and not the child and it is likely that sitting a child on a naughty step will make the child think that they are naughty rather than that their behaviour is naughty. I also live in a bungalow and don’t have steps. But that’s neither here nor there. In my house we use the doormat and it is just called the doormat. It is an area of the house that you are not likely to need to use in the time the child is having their time out and everyone usually has one; so wherever you are you can implement the same consequence. Whatever you choose to use, be consistent with it. It is confusing for children to have time out spaces all over the house so try to just use one space.

It is really important to give your child warnings before they have to sit in their time out space because as I mentioned in my post about new experiences, children are still learning. We live a culture with a lot of social boundaries and expectations and we each have slightly different expectations. You can’t expect a child to immediately know how to behave in each of these instances. Sometimes a warning will also come with a distraction and importantly an explanation. Speak to your child! ‘Freddie, we mustn’t snatch. Suzie is having her turn at the moment and in a minute she might let you have a go. You wouldn’t like it if she snatched from you. Here we go why don’t you play with this toy and in a few minutes you can swap,’ as an example. It sounds obvious… but I can see that it is not. If this happens again, you remind them that they mustn’t snatch and that if it happens again they will be sitting out (or having time out, or sitting on the doormat… whatever your terminology.) Then if it happens again, sit them out. This naturally will vary slightly with the age of a child and the seriousness of the behaviour. My son is nearly two, he knows that hitting people is not allowed and if he hits someone he goes straight to the doormat. When he was younger however, he was given the benefit of the doubt initially, always.

When you first introduce your time out space, there should be a short introduction to sitting there, for example, you must stay here until mummy comes back to talk to you. You are here for hitting your brother and hitting people is not kind.

Then walk away.

If they get off the step/space, put them back. If they scream and shout. Let them. But remind them briefly, that you won’t be coming back until they calm down. I don’t usually give an amount of time to the child because I feel that different behaviours result in different times and sometimes calming down after an incident takes time for a child and generally speaking children have no concept of time.

When they are calm, or when you feel an appropriate amount of time has passed (think maybe a minute or two for a two year old, slightly more as they get older,) go back and sit with them at their level. This is not a time to shout and scream at them. The minutes they’ve sat out should have given you time to calm down if you have felt flustered or cross as well! Explain to them why they are sitting out, if they are young, keep this very brief, then explain what usually happens after this – is there someone they need to apologise to for example? Then when they are off the step, that incident is done. Forgotten. Move on. Don’t keep talking about what has happened, they have had their consequence and now we are moving forward. If they immediately do the same thing again, sit them back down. Remind them that this not OK and go through the process again.

Some top tips for managing tough behaviour:

·      Follow through! If you have warned them that they will have to sit out, sit them out when they exhibit the same behaviour.
·      Try not make ridiculous threats; if you do that again you’ll be sitting out all afternoon. No they won’t. Don’t cancel Christmas, or going to a party or friends house…these are things that you will not follow through on… (see point one)
·      Try not to tell a 2 year old to behave. It is something that slips out of our mouths so easily but means nothing to them. Explain that what they are doing is not acceptable behaviour.
·      Model good behaviour. You can’t expect children to ‘behave’ if they don’t know what that is. So show them, show them how to play, show them how to be gentle or take turns or share.


Wednesday 5 August 2015

Swaddling... friend or foe?

I have recently had a number of people ask me about swaddling and I shall be upfront and honest with you and tell you .... I LOVE IT! Every baby I've nannied for from newborn, I have swaddled. I swaddled my own son and will undoubtedly swaddled bumpalina (testing out new names... thoughts?!). However, it is something that seems to be very personal and has in the last year or so, received some pretty bad press.

In my opinion if proper swaddling techniques were taught to mothers at ante natal classes, by midwives or health visitors in hospital or on home visits, then we wouldn't have reached the point that many mothers seem to be at. Lots of mothers are afraid of swaddling because they have heard that it can cause damage to babies hips, that babies don't like being tightly wrapped or that its restrictive. Some are afraid their baby will overheat. 

So here are the reasons I love swaddling and a few myth busters too...

The Startle Reflex - babies are born with a reflex that causes them to startle frequently. In the womb they are surrounded by water which allows them to move fluidly, once out in the real world it takes a little time for their tiny bodies to adapt to the way they move in air. This startle action will often wake a baby which can be very frustrating and upsetting for them (imagine that startle awake feeling you get when you are just dozing off to sleep) and can be extremely frustrating for mummy and daddy who seem to have a baby that only sleeps 20minutes at a time! Swaddling keeps their arms close and prevents this startle reflex, therefore preventing the frequent waking. 

It mimics the womb - Swaddling is nothing new. Women have been swaddling or wrapping their babies for centuries, across many different cultures. The first three months are often referred to as the fourth trimester, so swaddling makes perfect sense as a method of creating the cosy, comforting environment of a womb. Just think how little space your little one had before they came into the world, and believe me, they were happy as Larry in there!

It shouldn't be bad for their hips - Swaddling should only ever be tight over a babies arms. Never over their hips. I also always use proper swaddling blankets that have stretch rather than any old blanket, my favourite one was actually a gift for my son from The White Company from a thoughtful family member. You can also now buy shaped swaddle blankets - almost like a cross which makes it even more difficult to accidentally make it too tight over a babies hips. Personally, I prefer the old fashioned method, but I know my sister in law far preferred this type. My husband also became a fan of pushing Seb's legs up towards his stomach after he had finished wrapping him just to check it wasn't tight. 

Don't dress them in too many layers - Overheating is absolutely something you should think about when swaddling a baby. They are going to be wrapped up snuggly in a blanket so they won't need so many layers underneath. Seb was born in a warm August, so he usually was in a thin vest or grow or on hot days just a nappy before being swaddled. As we moved into the cooler months he wore more layers or thicker layers. Think about what you would wear if you were going to bed in the day. Would you go and have a sleep in the day, under the covers in all your clothes? Probably not.

So this is where I stand, what I have learnt through research over the years and how I believe I had a baby that slept well most of the time (he's only human!) from day dot! 

Here are two videos that I find helpful - 

The NCTs advice on swaddling : 

And here is a video on an amazing baby whisperer.... 

Need further help? Want to chat about swaddling or ask more questions? Feel free to get in touch!


Sunday 2 August 2015

Managing behaviour in new environments

We often forget that many experiences for children are brand new ones or maybe ones that they have only experienced a few times before. I have watched parents in restaurants before, as an example, being totally exasperated at their toddlers behaviour, likely thinking to themselves, 'but little Bobby knows how to eat a meal at home'. Restaurants are a great example of a place in which a certain level of behaviour is expected of a child in order that everyone else in the restaurant doesn't want to leave! Fundamentally, your child probably* knows how to eat. They may or may not like eating, that is a separate matter! However, because little Bobby knows how to eat his meal at home (whether it is with a fork, or fingers, that really is neither here nor there) it doesn't mean that you can expect the same behaviour of him in a restaurant. Restaurants are sensory overload for little ones - with the hubbub of noise from other diners, to the noise of the kitchen should you be near it, different high chairs, a vast array of things to touch on the tables, different lighting.... and that is all before you have even got to the food! Asking a toddler to wait at the table, not only to order food but then for it to arrive at the table!? We really are asking an awful lot here!

I find the key is communication.... and lots of distraction. Prepare your child for what is coming by talking to them about it, 'oh look this is a waiter, a waiter is someone who looks after us in the restaurant, he is going to ask us what we would like, maybe we could order you this, then he has to go and tell the chef....' etc etc etc....

Distraction between these moments is wonderful, so BE PREPARED! Bring crayons, bring cars, bring dolly, bring books, bring magazines (these I find to be most wonderful - they are like a new book to a child... that they are allowed to draw in.... that usually comes with some wonderfully naff toy that should entertain purely for the novelty of being new!)

This is also the time to fine tune your 'quiet but firm' voice. We all know you don't want to shout at your child in a restaurant (and we don't want you to either!) but sometimes, you have explained the child several times that they mustn't touch Daddy's wine glass or that you can't rip the menu or that you shouldn't stand in your high chair because it is dangerous (and then hopefully explained what dangerous means). I have found this voice to be a wonderful tool for all the children I have worked with and my own son, I also know it to be a favourite of teachers. It is the voice that is very quiet but the child knows you mean business. It is far less stressful for everyone than shouting and doesn't produce an uncomfortable or embarrassing environment for the child or anyone else around!

It is crucial to manage your expectations when you are somewhere that is relatively new to a toddler, they aren't going to 'get it right' every time and they will try your patience, but remember to think about how you learnt these 'social rules' and that everyday is a school day... right from day dot...