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Posts tagged ‘free play’

Every Kid Deserves a Good Pair of Boots

We are blessed with lots of rain here in the Pacific Northwest. After living in the desert of Arizona for 3 years, I LOVE the rain. I appreciate how much life it brings to this valley. And we’ve almost survived our first rainy season here. Locals tell us that we should be prepared to get wet up until the 4th of July, but we’ve seen a definite turn towards spring in the weather these last few weeks. We’re enjoying warmer temperatures and more sunshine, plus we’re getting to reap the benefits in blooming trees and fresh produce.

But, I’m not going to lie. The rainy winter is long. In January and February, weeks would go by without sunshine, and that wears on everyone. It’s tempting to cozy up inside with hot tea and watch the water run down the windows all winter. Thing is, I know a certain toddler and a certain dog that need to enjoy the freedom of being outside every day. And it turns out, I have that need, too. I just get internally grumpy when I don’t get my outside time. Kids and dogs get very externally grumpy.

Another thing we’re blessed with in our neighborhood: a meadow. It takes up about half of a block, and it is just open space cared for by folks in the neighborhood. It is edged by flowering trees and some native plants chosen to attract pollinators. (Yesterday, BabyC met her first bee in the meadow, and I think all the buzzing that we do when we read books about bees finally made sense to her.) The grass is wild and overgrown, and there are plenty of interesting sticks to play with. There are even a few stumps that BabyC loves to climb. And when it rains, there is water. But that’s it. No playground equipment and no sandbox. Yet, BabyC is happy to wander around the meadow for an hour at a time.

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Toddlers Don’t Need Toys

A few weeks ago, BabyC and I went through a rough patch. She was not that interested in playing independently. Before this, it seemed that her best play happened when I was present but not involved. What do I mean by “best play?” I mean the kind of play where she is totally engrossed and focused on a task that she designed. When she’s in charge of her play, it seems to hold her attention for the longest. I love playing with her, but I’m not nearly as creative as she is when it comes to figuring out all the many things one can do with an everyday object, and I’m afraid that I get bored and try to move her to a new task too quickly. BabyC, on the other hand, can dig through the recycling bin (I’ve learned to be selective about what I put in there) and come up with a toilet paper tube, a used yogurt container, and a milk jug and have all the tools she needs to keep her busy for an hour. One of her favorite projects has been containers with tops – taking them off, putting them on, putting objects inside, shaking, opening, taking out, putting in… she’s even started to get the hang of screw tops.

Anyway, back to our rough patch. For a couple of weeks, BabyC was really whiny. Husband finally helped her learn to say “Up!” when she wanted to be picked up. That was a vast improvement over whining, but she was still following me around the house saying, “Up-up!” all day long. I practiced saying, “I’m fixing dinner right now. I can pick you up in 5 minutes,” but I also spent a lot of time holding her and trying to do tasks with one hand, which I’m sure you understand takes 6x the amount of time as doing them with two hands. I would try to engage her in playing with blocks or yogurt containers, but she seemed to be more interested in hanging on my neck.

I started wondering if we needed to buy some new toys. Read more

BabyC Explores Gravity, and Mama Learns to Step Back

We’ve been blessed with a couple of beautiful sunny days here in Eugene. This is our first winter in Oregon, and I’m learning that sunshine should not be taken for granted. If the sun peeks from behind the clouds, I try to drop whatever dishes I was washing or laundry I was folding, bundle up BabyC, call the dog, and get outside. (Actually, Yuba the dog never needs to called; he’s always ready and waiting to go outside and perks up if I so much as put socks on, as I’ve written about before.)

We go to the park every day, rain or shine, because Yuba needs his exercise, and we all need to get out of the house now and then. Lately, though, our park trips have been short on time and fun because of the cold and soggy weather. I throw the frisbee for Yuba until he shows at least a little sign of tiredness or until BabyC’s hands turn purple from the cold, whichever comes first. But today, we all wanted to linger in the sun as long as possible.

BabyC focused her attention on a small slope of grass bordering the playing fields. She only started walking a few months ago but hasn’t tackled many hills yet. She started climbing up the hill but quickly fell down, face first, confounded by the slope of the earth and gravity pulling her towards it. She looked up at me but did not cry or seem distressed. She did a typical toddler maneuver to right herself: head down, plant hands, butt up (downward facing dog, my little yogi!), bend knees slightly, push back with hands to slowly transfer weight onto feet, and then carefully, carefully roll up to standing.

And then she fell again. Read more

Babies and TV: New Media Use Guidelines from the AAP

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a new policy statement on media use by children under 2 this week.  The new guidelines are based on more than 50 studies of TV* time in babies and toddlers.

How much TV do infants and toddlers in the U.S. watch these days?  The AAP cited several surveys that found that TV is a big part of the daily lives of our youngest children:

  • Among kids under 2 years old, 90% of them watch 1-2 hours of TV per day.
  • A staggering 19% of babies under 1-year-old have televisions in their bedrooms.  This figure rises to 29% for 2 to 3-year-olds.

The AAP “discourages media use by children younger than 2 years.”  They recognize that babies and toddlers will be exposed to some TV in today’s world, but they recommend that families try to limit TV time as much as possible – including both TV designed for kids and “background TV.”  The policy statement describes the research behind this recommendation and gives some alternatives to TV time. Read more