Dining Out with Young Children

One of my favorite activities with my family is enjoying a meal out. Sitting together on a restaurant patio, having conversation and enjoying good food…dreamy. The reality is, many parents struggle with taking their children out to eat. They worry they will make a scene, that their child will misbehave, or they will end up putting a screen in front of their child to distract them. Today I’d like to share an excerpt from my upcoming book about food and family. (Stay tuned for a release date).

Here are a few of my best tips to help you prepare for a meal out with your young children: 

  1. Practice: Having sit-down dinners at home is a preparation for eating at a restaurant. Each time you sit down as a family for a meal at home, you are practicing for your next meal out as a family.
  2. Bring a set of dishes: It may be helpful to bring your child-size plate, glass, and flatware that your child uses at home. Restaurants do not often have these items available, making it difficult for your child to fully participate in the meal. 
  3. Invite your child to be a part of the process: Take the opportunity to introduce pictures on the menu or new words. Discuss options with your child and then give him two to choose from. Even pre-verbal children can suggest preferences with facial expressions and hand gestures.
  4. Choose your seating wisely: Make sure to be seated in a way that your child can see people or look outside., Check that he won’t get overwhelmed and that he is not facing a screen. 
  5. Ask for your meals to be served together: Many restaurants assume that children should be served first. The difficulty with this is, when a child finishes eating just as the parents’ meals arrive, the child is ready to move onto the next activity and the parent hasn’t eaten. This often results in one parent taking the child outside while the other eats alone. This is no fun. A purpose of a family meal out is to eat together, therefore, everyone should be served at the same time.

In order to maximize the possibility of an enjoyable family meal out, keep in mind the time of day—is your child usually getting ready for sleep at this time? Consider his activity of the day—has it been a full day of activity (this might just be too much to ask)? What about his level of hunger? Is your child hungry enough for food to keep his attention, or is he over-hungry and asking him to wait is not going to work? All of these will factor into his ability to sit and enjoy a meal while out.

Potty Learning Season

Over lunch this week, a friend asked, “How is work going?”  I responded, “It’s busy. It’s Potty Learning season.”  We both laughed at the term, and she asked why would there be a season for such a thing.  SJ-toiletThe truth is, summer is such a perfect time to start the potty learning process.  First, it is a time of year you can let your child go bare-bottomed.  This often makes the process move more quickly, as a child without pants and underwear (or diaper) can more easily feel a trickle down his leg, and is less hindered when he actually makes it to the potty.  Secondly, many parents are trying to get a jump start before school is in session in the fall.  Many schools now have the requirement that children be potty trained, or well on their way.  So, I formally am declaring summer: Potty Learning Season 😉   (although I strongly believe potty learning should start any time of year that your find yourself ready)

If you need support figuring out when and how to start your Potty Learning routine, contact us at Studio June.  We offer Potty Learning Camp, Private Potty Learning Support in your home, and Potty Learning Phone Consultations.  You can also get started by ordering our Potty Learning Guide; Toilet Awareness.

Does your little one love playing with water?

water-transeferIt is no secret that young children love water.  They love touching it, scooping it, pouring it, splashing it…you name it!  In order to address this interest, encourage repetition, and support developing concentration in purposeful work at Studio June, we have designed a water transfer activity.  For those of you who attended my presentation at MTIPs last summer, you saw this activity in action.  And for those of who participate in our classes at Studio June, you know the joy your children experience with this activity.  You can set up this activity in your kitchen, or outside.

Purpose: to fill the water jug with fresh water

Skills: carrying a pitcher with two hands, filling a water pitcher, pouring through a funnel, wiping up a spill

Points of interest: watching the water fill the jug, the sound of the water filling the pitcher and the jug, using the water source, finding puddles of water to clean up

Materials: 2 glass water jugs (1 sealed and unopened and the other empty), 1 ceramic water dispenser, 1 large tray, 1 funnel, 1 2oz. pitcher, 1 low table, 1 basin fitted with a grate on top.

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

Set-up: the empty water jug is placed on the tray.  The funnel is placed in the water jug, the small pitcher is placed on the tray.  You may want to add a rug under the tray to help with spills.

Across the room, the ceramic dispenser goes on the low table and the basin and grate go under the spigot.  The sealed water jug goes on the water dispenser.

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

Notes:

  1. The purpose is to fill the water jug and the idea is the children clearly see the purpose of the activity to keep the water source filled. I DO NOT use the water the children add to the jug as drinking water.  I use this water to water plants after the children leave for the day.  Many other things fall in to the water and the children sometimes drink it on their way to fill the jug, so in order to keep the water source clean, I only use freshly filtered water in the water source.
  2. I always keep a filled and sealed water jug on top of the ceramic water dispenser (the water source).  To fill the dispenser, I take the sealed jug off, pour filtered water into the ceramic dispenser, and then place the sealed water jug back on top.  The sealed water jug helps to weight the water dispenser, keeping it stable and controlling the amount of water used during class.
  3. Ideally, the children would fill the empty water jug from a low sink.  The water dispenser is used because we do not have access to a low sink.  

Shh! We Have a Plan

shh we have a plan

In the children’s section of our local bookstore, I found a fun little book; Shh! We Have A Plan by Chris Haughton (Candlewick Press).  This is such a little gem and I laughed out loud as I read it for the first time.  There are 5 elements that drew me to this book:

  1. Simple and cleaver illustrations.  These illustration are clear yet creative.  At first glance, it is easy to see the story they tell, but with a second look there are little details that hold a child’s interest; like the tiny little tulips, a details in the stocking caps and shadows of the trees.
  2. Based on reality.  This story is about a small group of people working together toward a common goal (except for one ;))
  3. Repetition in words.  Children like rhythmic language and are drawn to the cadence as we read.  Keep your little one connected to this story through the beat of the repeated words.
  4. Onomatopoeia.  This is a word that makes the sound it represents.  Children enjoy all the different sounds that are a part of their language and this is no exception.
  5. Relatable story.  Children feel a natural connection to nature and other creatures.  This story tells the story of the smallest person in the group having the closest connection to another living creature.
  6. A fun twist at the end.  So fun!

Who knew you could get all this from a simple board book with a total of 31 different words!

In this delightful little book, we experience the fun of repetition, the thrill of the chase, and the relief of a generous heart.  Check out My other early reading recommendations.

PLAY!

playChildren learn through play. It is important to acknowledge that the play that children create and participate in is significant to their development, so in Montessori we tend to call child’s play, their ‘work’.

At Studio June we insure that each week, children are learning through free-play.  The Studio is filled with activities which specifically appeal to your child and his drive to learn.  All of our classes offer opportunities for children and their parents to play, learn, and grow. 

These are six characteristics of free-play:

  1. The time your child spends in the Studio is joyful and pleasurable.  We can hear the joy from the sounds of laughter and giddiness as the children return to the Studio each week.  Ready to get to work, some children seem to almost leap out of their mom’s arms ready to make the most of their time!
  2. There are no extrinsic goals. We know that just the opportunity to work with the toys and activities at Studio June will inspire unique learning. There are definitely probable outcomes, such as using a puzzle with small pegs will strengthen the pincer grasp and aid in the development of shape discrimination.  play2However, if a child chooses to move the puzzle pieces across the table, building a ‘train’ or construct a ‘family’ of animals from the puzzle, his concentration and creativity is not interrupted…this is his time to play.
  3. Play is spontaneous and voluntary.  Children choose what they want to play with.  The only caveat is that they choose something from a shelf (and not take from another child) and when they finish, they put it back, ready for the next person.  We do not dictate what a child finds interesting.  However, we may offer a new lesson that we can see with appeal to a child’s senses.  As we get to know your child we can see how he approaches play and can introduce new activities that will inspire creative play and deep concentration.
  4. Play involves active engagement. All of our activities are active, from finding hidden rattles play6throughout the cabinets and doors to discover to instruments large and small, water activities, trucks and trains, and even a mailbox with letters to mail.
  5. Play involves an element of imagination.  Each child finds a unique way to interact with his toys.  At Studio June he could be building with blocks, making animals swim in the ocean, climbing a bridge, or naming a series of nesting penguins, he is play7encouraged to use his imagination in his play.  The toys and materials we offer allow for creative exploration and help build a foundation of imagination.

 6. Play involves the whole child; mind and body.  A space prepared for free-play must allow for a child to move and explore.  At Studio June we offer such activities.  From the work of an 8 week old under a beautiful mobile, to the exploration of a walking child play4play3who dances to music and beats a drum, Studio June is prepared for every child to have a unique and creative experience.   This comes from the size of our Studio. Each piece of furniture is created to support the independence and movement of the children who play here—shelves to reach, chairs to sit in, cabinets to open and close, toys that appeal to the senses, and activities that build concentration—a Studio to support and optimize the development of the mind and body, simultaneously. 

A Whole Meal

vegetarian meal

Now that another school year has started my children have once again been challenged by their teachers to bring a balanced lunch to school.  When packing lunches the conversation around proteins, grains, fruits and veggies has been wonderful.  I take the opportunity to test my children’s understanding of how their foods are wade and all their ingredients.

This is no accident, maybe a little unforeseen, but I have been setting this stage from their first meal.  Each of them had their first solid food meal at about 6 months. At a calm time of the day I introduced a complete meal in replacement of a liquid meal.  I set the table with a special set of dishes, a napkin, placemat, and bib, and sat across the table as now it was their turn to eat, not cradled in my arms – latching on, but at a table as a separate person from me: my show of respect for their development and individuality.

We do not have a history of food allergies in our family, so although I was quite aware and observant when offering new foods, I was not particularly concerned.  The first meals need protein, grain, healthy fats, fruits and veggies, and water: all the components that their meals need now.  I started with puréed foods and after just a few short weeks moved to chunkier, mashed foods and soft bite-size foods.  This transition helped them to be more independent in eating as well as didn’t prolong the liquid and purée stage.  Trying new textures early in the introduction of solid foods allowed my children to have more variety in their diet and stay open to trying new foods.

An example of one of their first meals is:  Peaches, roasted sweet potatoes with olive oil, rice cereal and hard boiled egg yolk with breastmilk.  So many textures and flavors and a complete meal – worthy of replacing a milk meal.  After all, they received a full meal when nursing, it was important for me to continue that into their new solid meals.

Making sure even the first meal is a complete meal helps to lay the foundation for a healthy relationship with food.  Sure they have foods they prefer, don’t we all? But they are far from picky eaters.  

Rephrasing “No!”

SONY DSC

As a parent, saying “no” seems to come so naturally.  And I do think it has an important place in my vocabulary.  However, I find it can really shut down a conversation when I lead with it.  SO in an effort to keep it positive, I have challenged myself to create a list of how I could say yes instead of no.

Just a little background story; we have desserts at our house, just not every day.  I like to think I am teaching my children how to enjoy sweets in moderation.  I also believe in helping them develop an ability to delay gratification/patience.

“Mom can I have a cookie?”

“No!”

   or

1. Yes, after you finish your dinner.

2. Thats a great idea, when should we have cookies, after lunch or after dinner?

3. Yes, tomorrow I will have fresh cookies available after dinner.

4. Yes, when we go to the store next, we can choose some cookies.

5. Yes, I love to bake with you, lets find a recipe.

6. I love to share a sweet treat with you, shall we enjoy it after dinner today or tomorrow?

7. When would you like a cookie, today or tomorrow?

8. Yes, but I don’t have any cookies, can we enjoy some sweet fruit together?

9. Yes.  Lets choose which day this week you would like a cookie.

10. Yes, let’s have cookies, what a great idea.

Why do we carry one thing at a time?

carry one thing

This is an common question.  In many of the activities we do, we ask a child to carry one item at a time.  Why is this?

These are my reasons:

1. So they can have both hands on the item and have the best chance of successfully getting the item to the intended location without dropping it.

2. In order to increase memory. When you say, “Please get a fork”.  You offer your child the word ‘fork’.  She hears the word, finds a matching image in her memory and then holds that image  in her mind as she goes to the shelf, chooses one, and then returns to the table with the fork.  Sometimes they loose the image somewhere in between and may return with a different item, or even nothing at all.  It is important to repeat the command and have your child try again.

3. Efficiency isn’t the goal.  If it were, it would make perfect sense for a child to carry as much as possible in each trip.  However, when your child is moving with purpose, it is more important for him to be accurate over efficient.  It is accuracy in his movements that will help him strengthen his muscles and master his movements.

4. Repetition leads to concentration.  When your child repeats her movements she travels back and forth to a shelf, gathering the materials she needs.  Each trip she is challenging her memory and mastering her movements.  And each trip adds to a deeper connection and level of concentration with her work.

5. Movement with purpose increases the ability to learn.  Studies have shown that adding movement to your child’s learning experiences can greatly impact her experience.  The whole child is involved in learning.  Her hands must move to feed her mind.  Your child is wired to learn through her senses and this includes, her kinesthetic sense, also called the muscle sense.

The Power of Play: A Two-Hour Work-Cycle

workcycleThe work-cycle is the time, everyday, the children have to work/play at school. Once a child has adapted to the routine of school, he moves from one activity to the next, with very little adult interaction.  He sometimes will choose to be in a group activity, or check-in with the teacher through conversation.  Generally, he plans his day and proceeds with his “auto-education”.  The children’s ability to do this is what allows each child the specific education they need, and each teacher the ability to observation each child and their growth. 

Here are five characteristics of play that allow the child the ability to move through his morning effortlessly, as described by Dr. Rachel E.White for the Minnesota Children’s Museum’s report, The Power of Play.

  • PLAY IS PLEASURABLE. Children must enjoy the activity or it is not play. 
  • PLAY IS INTRINSICALLY MOTIVATED. Children engage in play simply for the satisfaction the behavior itself brings. It has no extrinsically motivated function or goal. 
  • PLAY IS PROCESS ORIENTED. When children play, the means are more important than the ends.
  • PLAY IS FREELY CHOSEN. It is spontaneous and voluntary. If a child is pressured, she will likely not think of the activity as play. 
  • PLAY IS ACTIVELY ENGAGED. Players must be physically and/or mentally involved in the activity. 

When parents tour a Montessori school they often ask about the difference between play and work.  Play is the work of the child.  We use the term ‘work’ in order to hold it in high regard and respect it as purposeful and meaningful.  

This info-graphic is made from the observation of one child for the full two hour work cycle.(2 hours for 12-36 months, 3 hours for beyond 3yrs) I have used different colors and shapes to highlight the different types of activities chosen throughout the morning. 

Five Easy Pieces

This post is the first of a series I will call “Five Easy Pieces”. Yes, that is the title of a 1970 Jack Nicholson film, but it is also the idea in fashion that five key pieces in your wardrobe can make all the difference.  I am going to take this opportunity to show DIY activities for young children that can be made from Five Easy Pieces and inspire hours of educational fun!

This week’s project: Magnet Language Activity

Screenshot 2015-03-16 21.27.03

Purpose:

  • Visual matching
  • Eye-Hand Coordination
  • Vocabulary Enrichment

The five pieces: 

magnetic board

 magnet setspaperbox for magnet boardadhesive

 

 

  • a magnetic board
  • a set of magnets
  • 11″ x 11″ color paper
  • a small tray or basket
  • adhesive

1. Choose a magnetic board.  I picked up one for $3 in the Target dollar section.  They are also available on amazon.com as well as office supplies stores.  I recommend 12″x12″.

2. Choose a set of realistic magnets.  I found a couple MagnaFun sets at our local Ross store. Melissa and Doug have some nice sets.      I also really like this set by Mud Puppy 

3. Make categories of 5-6 magnets.  For example, I bought a farm set and a wild animal set and was able to make; farm animals, birds, farm equipment, mammals, African animals… Arrange each category of magnets face down on a color copier, place a piece of 11″x11″ color paper on top. multiple magnet sets

4. Color copy the image onto card stock.

5. Trim the image as needed (I like to round the corners with a corner rounder).  

6. Attach the laminated picture to the magnetic board with double stick tape.

7. Attach the magnetic board to the wall with industrial strength Velcro.  (This can also be kept flat on a shelf, but I find young children like to see the magnets vertically on the wall).final magnet board

8. Use a light weight basket or tray to house the magnets and attach it to the wall under the magnetic board.  

9. Change the picture and magnets as your child’s interest changes.