Montessori Weaning Table Update

I wrote a little bit about our Montessori weaning table here, but realized I hadn’t given an update in quite some time.

We have both a high chair and a little child sized table and chair for James, and we use both almost every day.

At first, we used his little table for all of his meals, but as we started eating meals as a family, James joined us at the big table for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  There is no way the three of us could comfortably sit at his little table together.

I use his little table pretty much every day though for his afternoon snack.  I love several things about this.

  1. He can participate in setting the table.  Right now, he just watches me get things from his kitchen drawer, but I’m sure he will be helping with this before long.  I love that he can see the whole process, from set up through clean up.
  2. He can get up when he’s done eating.  The rule is that the food stays at the table, but when he’s done, he can get up.  I think it’s a good experience for him to practice staying at the table until he’s done eating, by choice rather than because he’s strapped in.
  3. He can help clean up!  This may be my favorite thing about his weaning table.  If he spills something in the high chair, there’s no way he can help clean up the mess on the floor.  He may not even see the mess on the floor.  If he spills something in his little chair though, he can see the clean up process, and will sometimes help.  Last week, he spilled his bowl of Cheerios and helped me put them back in the bowl.  I’m not sure how much of this is his desire to help versus his love of putting things in containers, but I’ll take it 🙂

If I can ever make it to IKEA, I want to get another little table for his playroom.  Hopefully that will happen soon!

How do you do meal times and snack times for your kids?

What’s your favorite snack?

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Ten Indoor Gross Motor Activities for Toddlers

I mentioned recently, I’ve been looking for more indoor gross motor options for James.  I am a big believer that giving toddlers enough opportunities for big movement helps immeasurably with their behavior.

A toddler climbing on all of the furniture isn’t being “bad,” he just has a strong need to develop his muscles and gross motor capabilities and will use whatever is available to that end.  So if we want to be able to redirect them away from unsafe / undesired climbing / running / throwing, it’s only fair to provide an appropriate outlet.

Here are some options I love!

  1. Beanbag toss – set up a basket and show your toddler how to toss beanbags into it.  As he gets better at it, make the basket smaller or move it further away.
  2. Appropriate climbing – For a young toddler, this could simply be placing large couch cushions on the floor to climb on.  For an older toddler, establish clear guidelines for what they’re allowed to climb on.  For us, climbing on tables is strictly off limits, but he’s allowed to climb on the couch (and has learned how to get down safely by himself).  I also still really want one of these, but haven’t pulled the trigger yet….
  3. Carrying something heavy – Young children seek out “maximum effort” activities.  They like to run as fast as they can and they like to carry objects as heavy as possible.  They’re like little cross fitters 🙂  Try providing something heavy, such as a weighted ball, for your child to carry around the room when he needs to use his big muscles.
  4. Distance Games – Place a puzzle frame on one side of the room and a basket with the pieces on the other side of the room.  Your toddler can walk back and forth across the room each time he needs a piece.  This works better for older toddlers, as it requires greater concentration and memory than most younger toddlers would possess.
  5. Balance Beam –   This would be simple to make yourself and I definitely plan on doing it soon.  Walking on a beam helps children with concentration and coordination, in addition to being  a great gross motor option.
  6. Large Blocks – Building with really large blocks encourages children to move around and reach up high, and also allows them to build paths or obstacle courses if they want to. (A more expensive, but really nice option)
  7. Obstacle Course – You can get a tunnel or just use things around the house to make an obstacle course.  Set one up for your child the first time, and then encourage him to make his own next time.
  8. Walking the Line – Walking the line is a traditional control of movement game used in Montessori 3-6 classrooms.  There is a line on the floor (often made with electrical tape, often in an ellipse shape) and children practice carefully walking on it, either as a group or individually.  This is often done to music.  This can be fun with older toddlers too, if they’re interested.
  9. Jump Boxes – Another fun one that requires nothing other than electrical tape and encourages coordination and controlled movement
  10. Climbing Stairs – We have a one story house, but my son loves climbing stairs whenever we encounter them.  If you have stairs at home, climbing up and down can be a great way for young toddlers to practice their new skills.

All of these activities can be done independently once you show your toddler how.  This is key so that he’ll have an appropriate outlet he can choose himself when he needs to move big.

If you’re interested in more ways to encourage movement in young children, I highly recommend the book Movement Matters.  I saw the author speak at a national Montessori conference and bought it immediately.  It’s written for teachers, but has many activities that would be great at home too.

How do you encourage appropriate gross motor in your home?  I would love any tips!

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I have and love.  Thanks for your support!

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A Montessori Baby Shelf – 12 Months

The type of toys James is interested in has really changed over the last month or two.  Here’s a peek at what’s currently on his shelves!

In his room:

The shelf in James’s room is relatively small, which works well for us because he doesn’t spend a ton of time playing in there.  He usually spends about an hour playing in his room right when he wakes up in the morning, and then sometimes plays in there right after he wakes up from his naps, so he doesn’t need a ton of toys to keep his interest.

Right now, this shelf includes:

Stuffed fox – I got this on Zulily when I was pregnant and can’t find it online right now, but the brand is Manhattan Toy Company.  James is just starting to cuddle with stuffed animals more and it is super cute!

Tin Music Box – I love music boxes for children and this one is very sturdy.  I also love these for slightly older children.

Basket of Shakers – I switch these out regularly, but right now this has a maraca, a homemade shaker filled with dried chickpeas, and this Brio bell rattle (love this brand).

Homemade Insert Work – James is super fascinated by taking things in and out of containers right now, so he has a lot of insert work on his shelves.  This one is a little red bud vase I already had with a peg from a baby hammering toy.  He loves it and really concentrates on trying to get the peg into the vase.

Open / Close Basket – Similarly, he is currently really interested in figuring out how to open and close things.  I think this is basically like a form of a puzzle – figuring out how things fit together.  This basket has three little boxes that I already owned – a paper box, a box made from cinnamon wood, and his favorite, a little bejeweled box that a sweet student gave me.  It also has a little drawstring bag.

This is one of his favorite things on his shelf right now.  He looks SO pleased when he gets the lid onto a box by himself.

Montessori Egg and Cup and Peg and Cup – This is another insert work.  It was given to me in a Montessori baby toy set similar to this one.  He has loved taking these apart and holding the little egg for months, but I just put them back on his shelf given his current interest in putting things together.

Wooden Shape Sorter – My mom just gave this to James for his birthday and he loves it!  He loves taking out the shapes and putting them back in (with the lid off, not through the little shape holes).  He also holds the shapes up to us to name for him.  I can’t find the exact one we have, but it’s similar to this one.

Fossil and Box – James loves to examine rocks, so I put a large fossil (also given to me by a student!) on his shelf.  I found this unfinished wooden box at Target in the craft section and it was just the right size for him to practice putting the fossil in the box.

In the Playroom:

We often spend a large part of the afternoon in his playroom, so there are a few more toys in here.  Currently, we have:

Fox Stacking Puzzle: This came as part of a bead maze toy my mom gave James for his birthday.  We have the bead maze part of the toy in another part of the room and it is super cute too, but James especially loves this stacking puzzle.

Basket of balls – This has a bunch of balls in it including sensory balls, a lacrosse ball, and a really cute butterfly ball we got at our local wildflower center.

Pop Up Toy – This is one we just got recently and it’s super cute.  There are springs under the four pegs, so they bounce when you tap them and will pop out if you hit them hard enough.  James also likes just taking them out and trying to put them back in.

Rainbow Nesting / Stacking Bowls – These wooden bowls are beautiful and nest as well as stack.  I love that when he’s older we can use them as containers, perhaps to organize art supplies in, so I see us using them for years.

Smelling Bottles – These were so easy and fun to make!  I got two sets of inexpensive salt and pepper shakers from Target and filled each with something with a strong smell.  I used fresh ginger, lemon peel, fresh rosemary, and coffee beans.  James likes to hand me a bottle to smell, and then smell it himself.  I love watching him sniff with his little nose, it is so cute! (idea from this post)

Jar of Rings – This is just an old applesauce jar filled with these rings.  He actually hasn’t been using this as much lately so I need to find something to replace it, but for a while taking the rings out of the jar and putting them back in was one of his absolute favorite things to do.

Wooden Dowel with Bracelets – I used the wooden dowel from this rainbow stacker and put several interesting bracelets on it.  James loved the rainbow stacker, but was beginning to lose interest, so I switched out the rings with bracelets to mix it up and spark his interest again.

Three Piece Wooden Puzzle – James has shown some interest in the puzzle, but so far he only removes the pieces, he does not try to replace them.

In addition to his shelf, he has a few other toys around the room:

Animal Rescue Shape-Sorting Truck – My friend Natalie gave this to James for his birthday and it is SO cute!  He loves examining the little animals and putting them back in the truck.

Bowl of Pumpkins – I got James an assortment of small pumpkins and gourds at Trader Joe’s and he loves taking them all out of the bowl and putting them all back in.  The bowl is glass and makes a great gong-like sound when he drops the pumpkins in.  He also loves chewing on them….

Rainbow Blocks – I’ve mentioned these before, but we are still loving them.  I have these on the window sill right now because they look so pretty with the light coming through.

Comotomo Silicone Baby Teether – I’ve also just started keeping this on the window sill because James is teething and loves to chew on the window sill.  To try to deter this, I have the teether right there for him.

Duplos – We don’t keep a ton of toys in the living room, but we do have a set of zoo animal Duplos tucked away and James loves playing with them.  He hasn’t yet figured out how to put them together, but he loves taking them apart and putting them back in the bucket.  This is extra fun because my husband’s parents sent the set that belonged to him as a kid.

And that about sums it up!  I’m looking forward to making him some more things for his shelves, so if you have any ideas or favorites, please share!

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I have and love.  Thanks for your support!

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On Staying Home More as a Stay at Home Mom

You would think that being a stay at home mom would mean you’re at home all the time.  This is often not the case though and I recently found myself spending less and less time at home.

At night, I would start to get a slightly panicky feeling if we had nothing planned for the next day, and try to think of something we could go do together.

I think this happened for a couple of reasons.  James has gotten to an age where it’s really easy to take him out and about.  He is also awake for much longer stretches of time now and I think it can be daunting to think about three hours at home with nothing to “entertain” the little one.

Also, while I used to largely sit back and watch James play fairly independently, I had gotten out of the habit of doing this when he started pulling up to stand.  I was a little bit terrified when he started pulling up because he would just let go and fall straight backwards and hit his head.  So I followed him around constantly.  While this may have been necessary for a week or so, it is certainly not necessary any more.  He’s super capable of coming down gently and intentionally now and rarely falls.  When he does fall, he almost always catches himself with his hands.  I just needed to retrain myself to take a step back again and let him be.

I started reading Your Self-Confident Baby, by Magda Gerber, because I was curious about the RIE philosophy and how it was similar to / different from Montessori.  I am loving the book and it really reminded me that 1) children need long, uninterrupted periods of time to play and 2) to interfere as little as possible when a child is playing / working on something.

These two things are definitely emphasized in Montessori as well, I just needed a reminder.

So last week, I took a step back.  And we were both so much happier.  I chose a spot to sit in the room and let him play without hovering to make sure he didn’t fall.  He played happily and periodically came over to check in with me.  He would usually come over very briefly and climb up on me for a hug before zooming off again.  Sometimes he would choose a book for me to read him before continuing on his own.  It was so fun and interesting to watch him play.

I also realized, while it seemed like James was getting “bored” playing in his room or playroom for a long stretch of time, I think this was really “false fatigue”.

False fatigue is a term we used to describe how the children behaved late in the work period at school.  In a Montessori classroom, the children have three-hour long work periods where they choose work independently.  Often around 10 AM or so, some of the children would start to act a little bit crazy and would stop working.  They would wander around aimlessly chatting with other children and getting silly.  It would seem as if they were done for the morning.  In reality, they were a little fatigued from all of their hard work and needed a little help settling back in.  After connecting briefly with a teacher, many of the children would settle back in to do some great work.  I’ve seen the same thing with James.

He will start “rage crawling” as we call it around the room, not choosing anything and grunting or whining.  It will seem as if he’s totally over playing in that room.  I’ve found that I can often help him settle back into playing by connecting with him.  First, I just talk to him about what I’m seeing, what he may be feeling, and some things I see that he may enjoy doing.

I also find it helps if I put all of his toys back on the shelf where they go.  Since he doesn’t yet restore his own toys, the room is a mess after a while.  I think it becomes visual clutter to him when everything is on the floor and it’s as if he can no longer see anything interesting to work with.  As soon as I put the toys away, he often sees something that strikes his interest.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll read him a couple of books or sing a couple of songs with him and then help him get started playing with something, before backing away and letting him play on his own.

These things usually work really well, unless it’s late in the day, at which point he just may be too fatigued to be as independent as he is most of the time.  At that point, I’ll continue reading books with him or singing songs as long as he enjoys doing it, or take him outside for a change of scenery.

When he is playing happily on his own, I try to really observe him, which is a big part of Montessori as well as RIE.  Honestly though, I don’t find myself able (at this point at least) to just sit and observe him all morning.  So I also bring a book or a notebook and read or write after observing him for a while.  I find that if I have nothing else to do, I often wind up jumping in when he doesn’t need my help.

I alternate observing him with reading or writing, and always put down my book as soon as he comes over to me.  I choose a book because I at least think that it’s beneficial to model reading and writing, rather than being on my phone.  I think that seeing adults read helps children want to read, as they want to do everything we do.  I hope that, with practice, I’ll be able to observe him for longer stretches of time.

While this is just a change in outlook, it has seriously made such a difference in our days.  I enjoy being with him at home so much more, and I no longer feel like we have to have something to go do every day.

I also believe that a baby is part of the family and that involves compromise.  So if I’m going crazy being in the house, I will take him for a walk in the stroller, which he seems pretty neutral about, but I really enjoy.  I try though to make sure he has some free time to play in every block of “awake time” throughout the day, and that he has at least one really long stretch of time every day to play freely.  So far, so good!

Do you like being home a lot or being out and about more?

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I have and love.  Thanks for your support!

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What is Stand-up Diapering?

We made another change to James’s room last week and I’m pretty excited about it.

My husband flipped James’s mirror so it’s vertical (it’s attached to the wall with 3M strips, so this was pretty easy), and added a pull-up bar.  We’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but life has been busy!

You can purchase pull-up bars from Montessori shops or Etsy, but honestly, it is so simple to make yourself with some basic supplies from Home Depot (I say it’s simple, my husband did it, but it did not take him long).  We used this tutorial as a guide.

James can already pull up on the mirror with no bar, by walking up with his hands, but we wanted a pull-up bar so that we could start doing stand-up diapering.

Are you familiar with stand-up diapering?  If you have / have had a baby, you likely know the FIGHT that diaper changes can become.  Once baby becomes mobile, he no longer wants to be laying flat on his back (at least this has been true for James).  James started to really fight diaper changes and he is very strong!

Once baby can stand, many Montessori classrooms and homes switch to stand-up diapering.  The child holds on to something and you change the diaper while the child stands.  We installed a pull-up bar, but I have also heard of children holding onto the bathtub or a low shelf or table for stand-up diaper changes.

The idea is to recognize baby’s new developmental stage and to help him be a more active participant in the diaper changing process.  Doing things with baby, rather than to / for baby, is a big focus in Montessori.  I really like having the pull up bar in front of a mirror so that James can see what I’m doing as I talk about it.  Right now, he helps by carrying his diaper from the closet over to the bar.  Eventually, he will be able to help more by undoing his diaper tabs, pulling down his pants, etc.  I also talk through each step of what I’m doing.

If you have an older baby / toddler who fights diaper changes, it can also be helpful to have two designs of diapers and let them choose: “Would you like an Elmo diaper or a Big Bird diaper?” so that they feel they have some say in the matter.  We’re not to this point yet, but I’ve definitely seen it help with toddlers.

Right now, we are still getting used to the process and it can be a bit tricky at times.  James is very steady standing with one hand holding on, but sometimes he doesn’t want to hold on and chooses to sit down.  I sometimes need to support him with one hand while I finish changing his diaper.  It’s still easier than wrestling with him on the floor though and he seems happier about it.

While this is very new in our home, I used to be an assistant in a Montessori toddler classroom before I got my 3-6 certification and stand-up diapering worked wonderfully there!  I cannot imagine trying to lay down one of those big two year olds to change their diaper, that sounds so much harder to me!  I’m hopeful that this will keep diaper changes from becoming a regular battle in our house.

As a reminder, I am Montessori trained for 3-6 year olds, but not for infants and toddlers.  I found this article from the American Montessori Society website very helpful for Montessori diapering / toileting.

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A Montessori Play Space

Recently, a friend asked me where to buy “Montessori stuff”.  While there are of course specialty stores and catalogues focusing on Montessori-friendly items, I think it’s a common misconception that Montessori means lots of expensive stuff.  On the contrary, Montessori-friendly spaces are generally quite simple and it is just as much about the layout of the room as the items available to the child.

So a few months ago when we decided to turn our “office” (aka random room we never used, but called an office because it had a desk in it) into a playroom for James, I had a few things in mind:

  1. Plenty of open space to explore
  2. A low shelf with limited options that the child can choose from himself
  3. Art hung at the child’s level (as opposed to the adult’s level)
  4. A cozy space for reading books

We just finished the room this past weekend (as much as it will ever be finished, as I’m sure we’ll continually adjust as he grows), but have been using it for the last month or so and it has been great!

James has gotten to the point where he gets sick of being in his room; he wants to explore.  He loves crawling around the rest of the house, and we certainly let him, but it is also really nice to have another space that is his.

This room is also our guest room, so has a large couch that folds out into a bed, but this has actually been nice because James likes cruising along the couch and it is soft, so we don’t have to worry about him banging his head on it.  This isn’t as much of a concern now, but it was especially great when he first started pulling up.

We kept the room simple.  There is a reading nook in the corner and I really love the little bookshelf (from Ikea) because it is easy for James to see and choose the books and it is a good size for him.

It holds about four board books and I rotate them regularly.

Eventually, I’d like to get a cozier rug and cushion like his reading nook in his room, but for now this is working well.

He has a toy shelf with two levels, which is working great now that he can pull up.  I would only use a shelf with one level if he were not yet pulling up.  I originally planned to get the same shelf he has in his room, but Ikea is really far from us and the shipping was really expensive so I got  this one*on Amazon.  It is listed as a closet organizer, but is working really well for this relatively small room.

I rotate the toys regularly, not on a schedule, but according to what he’s playing with.  I observe him playing and, when I see that he no longer chooses a certain toy, I take it off of the shelf and add something different.  I also try to include both toys that are easy and familiar to him, and some that are newer or more challenging for him.

I got this road rug at Ikea when I was in Houston.  I think it was $15, so much less expensive than other ones I’ve seen.  It’s pretty small, but a good size for this room.

I originally wanted a white rug…but then I realized his spit up is now a whole array of colors since he’s eating solid foods and that was impractical.  Also, while he’s obviously too young to play with cars on the rug, he really likes patterned rugs and stops to examine different parts of it as he plays.

One of our favorite parts of the room is the big window, which James loves to look out.  Unfortunately, the couch blocks it and there really isn’t another configuration that works, but when James goes over to the window, I help him get onto the couch to look outside.

Lastly, I wanted to hang some art at his level.  I got a simple Winnie the Pooh Art Print for his reading nook.  I wanted something literary themed, and while I know some prefer to not include any children’s books with unrealistic talking animals, I like to make an exception for the classics because they are so wonderfully written and such good stories.  I have a very old copy of Winnie the Pooh that belonged to my grandmother and can’t wait to read it to him some day.  I also liked the simplicity of the image.

Since he can pull up now, I also wanted something for him to look at when he was standing at his shelf.  I decided to get 12×12 frames so that I could use calendar pages.  This is super inexpensive, especially if you buy calendars from past years, and allows you to easily change out the images as the child’s interests emerge and change.  I went with clouds for now.

Lastly, I added some black and white images to the inside of his shelf.  These are from this Art for Baby – it comes with a fold out of all of the images and I simply cut out a few that he seemed to enjoy from the book.  He sometimes sticks his whole head in the cube to get a better look and touch the picture.

While we’re using the room daily now, there are still a few things I would like to add:

  • Plants!  I would like to add at least one hanging plant.  I have the plant actually, I just need to figure out how to hang it.
  • A cozier cushion and rug for the reading nook
  • Either a mobile above his reading nook (I’m working on one, but am not sure I’ll ever finish) or some type of pretty glass hanging in the window

I really just thought the playroom would be a fun use for a room we never went it, but it has seriously been so great to have another space for him to play!

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I have and love.  Thanks for your support!

Do you enjoy home design projects?

If you could redo one room in your house, what room would it be?

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Easy Homemade Baby Toy

I’m pretty much the least crafty person on the planet, so this will not be a “Pinterest worthy” creation.

I was not even planning on sharing this, it was something I threw together on a whim one morning, hoping it would occupy my little guy in the kitchen while I cleaned up his breakfast…but he loved it!  So it is now on his shelf and I have another variation in the works so thought I would share.

There are so many expensive baby toys out there, but I’ve purchased some that I think are beautiful and interesting…and he’s never given them a second glance.  And then he goes and falls in love with our coasters….  So while I want James to have things that stimulate him, I also try not to spend too much on toys.

This is a super simple shaker toy.  I think he likes it because it is a good size for his hand, and it is clear, which most of his shakers are not.  I had an empty sprinkles container after making my mom’s birthday cake and simply filled it with some dried chickpeas.

I then realized I had a couple of other empty spice containers (because after teaching in a 3-6 year old classroom, you don’t throw these things away!), so filled one with black beans and one with yellow water.  I would have used blue, but apparently I only have yellow food coloring…whoops.

These are on the shelf in his room now and he really likes them, though his clear favorite is the chickpeas.  As soon as I procure food coloring, I’m going to make a separate liquids set that has blue, yellow, and red.

I have one other homemade toy in the works for him and I’ll definitely share if he likes it.

Do you ever make homemade toys (or gifts if you don’t have kids)?

Are you crafty?

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My New Favorite Spot in the House

We’ve updated James’s nursery as he’s grown and the most recent update has become my favorite part of the house.

I’ve loved to read ever since I can remember.  I’ve also always loved reading aloud for some reason.  Even in high school, when I was super shy and would never raise my hand to comment in class, I would volunteer to read aloud in English class.

When teaching at the Montessori school where I worked, reading books to the children at group time was always one of my favorite things.

All this to say, I naturally couldn’t wait to read to James when he was born.  I’ve read to him ever since he was a newborn.  I used to read to him laying side by side on the floor.  Then, I would sit him in my lap to read books together.  Now he sometimes sits in my lap to read (usually before a nap or bedtime), and sometimes crawls around while I read, stopping to look at the pictures periodically…he is a busy guy.

We took the glider out of his room when he became mobile because, especially since he was using the floor bed at the time, I wanted his room to be completely baby proof and was worried he’d hurt his little fingers under the rockers.  Even now that we’ve put a pause on the floor bed, I think it’s important for him to have a space of his own, where we don’t have to tell him “stop” or that things are unsafe for him.

Without the glider though, we were lacking a cozy spot to read.  I decided to make a little reading nook for him, and we are both loving it.

Both the pillow and super soft rug came from Ikea.  I will add a book shelf when he’s older, but for now, a little basket of books is enough.

I switch out the books every week or so and I love seeing which ones catch his interest!

I very much hope that James grows up loving to read as much as I do and I will read to him as much as he wants for as long as he lets me!

Do you love to read?

Did you love to read as a child?

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Montessori Floor Bed Update

Good morning!

I’ve been somewhat scared to write this post as it seems like anytime I start to write something about James’s sleep improving, I jinx it and the improvements immediately disappear.  In an effort to overcome my superstitions though, I wanted to share an update on James’s sleeping situation, his naps, and specifically, the floor bed.

I wrote here about the reasons for using a floor bed and how it was working for us.  In short, it worked GREAT for the first six months or so.  James hated his bassinet, and loved his floor bed.  I liked that he could look around his environment and that we could comfort him easily without taking him out of bed.

Not surprisingly, everything got a little more challenging when he became more mobile, around six months.  Obviously I knew this time would come and he would some day be able to get out of bed.  I did not know how that would impact his sleep, but figured we’d deal with that when the time came.

At first, it was fine.  Bedtime and nap time were a little more challenging, as he’d scoot out of bed a few times (on purpose, very cautiously, he never hurt himself this way).  I would go in and silently put him back in bed without making eye contact to avoid stimulating him / making him think this behaviour would lead to play time with mom.

With some experimenting, I learned that if I went in right when he got out of bed, it quickly became a game for him.  So instead I would wait 4-5 minutes and then go put him back in bed.  This often worked and he’d go to sleep after a few round of this.  Sometimes for naps though, he would get too riled up and excited so I would help him go to sleep.  I would sit next to him silently with a hand on his back, avoiding eye contact or stimulation.  This worked well, but I did feel like it was a step backwards since he had previously been falling asleep on his own.  Still, I hoped that it would improve with time as he adjusted to his new freedom.

I should also mention, I removed all toys from his shelf whenever he went to bed so that there was nothing too enticing in his room.  Still though, he easily amused himself by looking in his mirror or playing with his rug or window shade.  No toys needed!

Separately from this, we had the nap struggles I mentioned many times.  James had always taken a long morning nap and two short afternoon naps.  Suddenly at about six months, almost all of his naps were short (35 minutes).  This had happened a few times in the past for a period of a few days, but this time it went on and on for weeks.  I went a little bit crazy….

I read everything I could find on baby sleep, circadian rhythms, ideal durations between naps, ideal times for naps, etc.  I tried keeping him up longer, keeping him up shorter, putting him on a nap schedule based on the information in Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child.  Nothing worked….

I tracked all of his naps, trying to decode what went right when he occasionally took a longer one.

Possibly the funniest, but worst strategy I tried was what I fondly refer to as “poking the bear”.  I read that sometimes babies just get in the habit of short naps, and if you can interrupt their sleep cycle by gently nudging them a few minutes before they wake up, they will sleep longer.  Yeah, this was a disaster for us.  He just woke up, understandably pissed off, turning a 35 minute nap into a 25 minute nap.  NOT GOOD.

Honestly, I think this was a total missing the forest for the trees situation.  I was so focused on the details of his sleep times and trying to get it exactly right that I failed to take a step back and consider the broader situation.

James had always stirred at 35 minutes – if I watched the monitor, he would turn his head or move his hand, but go right back to sleep.  This was just when his sleep cycle naturally transitioned.  However, once he became mobile, he would pop his little head up and get right out of bed to explore.  He was just too curious, too drawn to roll, and then crawl, around his environment.  Who needs sleep when the big wide world awaits?  Everyone, that’s who.

It felt a bit like giving up, but I decided I needed to try something other than the floor bed for naps.  My friend Laura had told me about the Lotus travel crib and I liked it better than a traditional crib or pack and play for several reasons.  It’s on the floor and James is used to sleeping this way – I didn’t know how he would react to suddenly being up high and wanted to minimize the disruption of the change.

It also unzips in front.  I like that I can unzip it and let him come out on his own when it’s time.

Lastly, I love that it travels!  We have several trips coming up and I love that I’ll be able to bring this with us to help the little guy sleep as well as possible on vacation.  It folds up very small and the case can be worn as a backpack.

I had been thinking of trying this for a few weeks, but I had no idea if it would work and it was a little bit expensive, so I was hesitant.  I got desperate though and decided to try it.

It was like magic!  The very day I started using it, he took his normal two short naps, but then slept for an hour for his third one!  It’s been two weeks since then and there has only been one day that he did not take at least one long nap.  Things have actually been getting gradually better too, with his morning nap lengthening to an hour and twenty minutes many days.  There have been several days where he’s taken two, hour plus naps and not needed the late afternoon cat nap.  It seemed like this would never happen!

I was so stressed about him getting enough sleep, not to mention how unpredictable our days were and how difficult it was to do things with him always on the verge of being over-tired and needing to nap.  This thing has been a life saver!

After a week of excellent (for him) naps, I decided to use the Lotus for night time sleep too.  He was sleeping okay at night, but it was sometimes taking him a really long time to fall asleep at bedtime.  After seeing how well it worked for him during the day, it was an easy decision to move away from the floor bed at night, for now.

This is by no means meant as a knock against the floor bed – I’ve seen it work well for many babies at the school where I taught!  It was just a great reminder for me to remember to observe my own specific, unique baby and do what works for him.

Maria Montessori was a scientist who observed children and tried things based on what she saw.  I don’t believe she would ever say that one thing worked for all children or that a method should be blindly, rigidly applied without considering the individual child.  She wrote of following the child and of giving the child freedom within limits – I think James needs more limits than the floor bed gives him right now, and that’s okay.

The great thing about it is, it’s just a twin mattress, so it’s not like I bought an expensive piece of baby equipment that is going to waste.  We’ll just put it away for now and watch him to see when he’s ready to give it another try.

I definitely don’t regret using the floor bed, but I am SO happy to have moved on to something that’s working for us now!

 

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Baby Led Weaning – High Chair versus Weaning Chair

As I mentioned here, after much discussion and general wishy-washiness, we ended up getting both a high chair and building a “weaning chair” (a weird name for a baby-sized chair).  Now that we’ve been using both for about a month and a half, I wanted to share our experience for anyone else out there feeling indecisive on the matter.

Weaning Chair

My husband built this little chair for James and I love it so much.  He usually eats breakfast and lunch in his little chair.

Some of my favorite things about the chair:

Independence: I love that James will be able to get in and out of his chair by himself when he’s a little older, since he’s not strapped in.  I also love that he’ll be able to help set and wipe the table later since the table is at a height he can reach.

Balance: I’m sure this depends on the specific chair, but ours does not hold him in as tightly as the high chair.  This was a challenge when he first started using it, but in a good way.  James is not too interested in sitting, always wanting to be on the move, so sitting in his chair for meals was one of the only times he really practiced balancing while sitting.  Will sit for food!

Food Waste: The way the chair is built with the tall sides, much of the food James drops winds up on the seat of his chair, rather than the floor, so that I can give it back to him.  This results in much less food waste and a less messy floor.

The things I don’t like as much about the weaning chair:

Harder to Clean: I love that it’s made of wood, but it is a lot harder to get it fully clean than his plastic high chair, especially after something like oatmeal or avocado.  I used a natural beeswax wood polish, but maybe I need to apply another coat?

High Chair

We have also been enjoying our Ikea high chair (only $20!).  We use this mostly for James’s dinners.  The things I like about the high chair:

Family Meals: As I’ve mentioned before, we aren’t really doing family dinners right now since James needs to eat early to protect his early bedtime.  However, my husband often gets home while James is eating dinner and comes and sits with us at the dining table.  I can easily sit on the floor at James’s little table, but it’s too small for two adults and a baby, so the high chair lets us all sit together for a meal.

Easier to Clean: The high chair is very easy to clean. It is a simple one with no fabric and not too many pieces, which makes it easy.  If it’s been a particularly messy meal, it’s easy to carry it to the backyard and hose it off.  I will say the food spreads out further on the floor though since he is dropping it from a greater height.  I also like that I can keep James in there while I clean up to show him more of the process.  He is not stable enough in his little chair for me to leave him there while I clean up after a meal.

All in all, while I definitely don’t think both are necessary, I love having both the weaning chair and high chair for James and think we’ll likely keep using both for years.  As far as I can tell, James doesn’t seem to have a preference – he’ll eat anywhere as long as sweet potatoes are involved 🙂

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