Monday, January 16, 2012

Our First Day of Tot School

          I've been doing a lot of reading on Dr. Maria Montessori's philosophy on early childhood education. I have fallen in love with the principles of allowing children to choose the activities they want to perform and the subjects they want to learn as well as teaching them how to perform self care and practical living activities when they are ready and show interest. I am also in love with the idea of simplifying our lives, not having too many toys, and focusing on simple, open ended natural toys that inspire creativity. It seems to fit in very well with my style of parenting as well as Daniel's interests.

          Daniel has never been the type of baby who likes to stay in a crib or play yard all day and I've never been the type of mother to force that on him. From the moment he became mobile, he has pretty much been allowed to roam the house. I always supervise him, of course. We did have to start baby proofing the house early but it has been worth it as Daniel has learned so much from exploring his environment. Daniel loves to get into stuff and, if I am doing dishes, he can be found playing with plastic containers or pots from my lower cabinets. If I am in the room, he is taking stuff out and putting it back into drawers or baskets. He also loves to observe what I do and help me to the best of his ability. He helps put quarters in the washing machine and presses the button to turn it on when we do laundry and helps me stuff diapers and put them away as well. He really loves to help and giggles out loud when he figures out how to do something by himself. It makes me so happy and proud.

         Daniel is now almost 14 months and is at the stage where he really wants to learn how to do everything by himself. He loves eating small pieces of food from his high chair tray by himself, brushing his tooth (after I've already brushed it, of course), and brushing his hair. He is also very interested in learning how to eat with a spoon. He has been drinking out of a straw for quite some time now but he now demands to hold his own cup. He also really wants to be a part of everything I do. Due to his new interest in learning, I decided it was time to start a somewhat formal way of homeschooling for him. I did tons of research online and came across Tot School: home school for toddlers. This was just what I was looking for. I still have a lot more research to do but I decided to start with some simple activities.

          Today was our first day of Tot School. Daniel tends to get overwhelmed when there are too many toys out at once so I decided to keep it simple. We took the doors off the bottom shelves on our entertainment center in the living room a while ago, when Daniel kept smashing his fingers on them. We also removed everything that was there so he couldn't get into anything. I now use these shelves to set out toys. This week, i decided to start with his shape sorter house from Ikea, two Melissa & Doug wooden puzzles: one large-knobbed one and one chunky one, a small Bible coloring book and some crayons (kept in a stainless steel container with lid), about 6 board books, a set of stacking cups, and some hand knitted finger puppets my mother-in-law got him (stored in a sandwich bag). I spaced the activities out so that most shelves have only one activity and it is easy for Daniel to choose one at a time and also for him to help clean up after himself. I plan to  switch out the activities each week.

          I will count our first day of Tot School as a success. We started out the day by reading some books, mainly Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, One Fish, Two Fish, Three, Four, Five Fish and Hop on Pop. We also named objects in his Baby Einstein First Words book. We then ate breakfast, read some more, and did some coloring in Daniel's Bible coloring book. I am amazed at how quickly he has picked up on coloring. He absolutely loves it! After coloring, we sorted shapes in his shape sorting house. I am also amazed at how good he has gotten at putting the shapes in the slots. The house currently has triangles, circles, squares, and a pair of mailbox shaped pieces. He can do all but the mailbox ones on his own and really enjoys it. The next activity was stacking cups. He started out nesting them one inside the other until he dropped one and daddy kicked it back to him. From that moment, he just wanted to throw them at his dad and have him kick them back. When he was done with those, he played with his puzzles for a while. Then he proceeded to put toys on the shelf and take them back out. He would bring me and my husband the toys then walk back and forth between us and the shelves with toys in his hands. He did this for quite some time and was really proud of himself. Once the toys were on the shelves for good, I let him play with his hand knitted finger puppets for the first time and he loved it. he thought they were hilarious! We sang songs about the animals and Told him the names in English and Spanish as well. Daniel had so much fun he didn't even want to take a nap!

          We, of course, took a break for lunch somewhere in there. Then there was bath time. That always involves fun for Daniel. We usually take a bath together and he colors on the tub and walls with his bath tub crayons. We also play with his rubber animal friends. He loves it when I squirt him with them and today we had fun naming the animals and making their sounds. He has also discovered water squirting fun with a peri-bottle I never used from when he was born. After bath time, we had dinner and then Daniel decided to take a nap at almost 9pm! When he woke up from his nap, he decided to start some of his activities again. He will probably brush his teeth before bed and have us read him his books some more before we go to bed.

          I am pretty sure Daniel and I will have tons of fun on this journey through Tot School. I plan to come up with many more activities for him in the coming weeks. Some ideas I already have in mind are finger painting (with homemade, edible finger paints), transferring objects from one container to the next, some kind of musical instrument play, opening and closing activities, lacing beads, and going outside to explore nature. I have a lot more research to do online and also nee some more materials for our classroom. I want to get rid of the plastic junk to make space for more useful Montessori style activities. Being that I'm Hispanic and bilingual, I also want Daniel to learn Spanish so, aside from speaking to him, singing to him, and naming objects in Spanish, I would also like to obtain some Spanish books for us to read. I also plan to start going to story time at the library and a free 5 week music class and 5 week developmental playgroup I just found out about as well as his two free Gymboree classes (from his birthday). I hope to be able to turn Tot School into a regular, well planned part of our lives.

          I will be blogging more about the Montessori method at a future date. I will also update you on what new activities we implement and how we're doing as we go along. My current method is by no means perfect as I am just starting out. I hope to get more organized and incorporate many more Montessori principles into our lives and will hopefully have pictures of our shelves for you to see later on. Some blogs I have found helpful so far are:, and I also recommend the book How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin. I will post more resources I find helpful as I come across them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bring Breastfeeding Back to Sesame Street

          A few weeks ago, mom blogger Lani Michelle of  Boobie Time Blog posted a couple of old Sesame Street You Tube videos which showed moms breastfeeding. She urged Sesame Street to bring breastfeeding back on the show. Another woman, Jessica Williams, created a petition on with the intent of sending the petition to Sesame Street in hopes that they agree to bring breastfeeding back to the show. The goal is 7,000 signatures and there are 6,248 signatures as of right now.

         As we all know, Sesame Street is a very influential and informative children's television program. During the 70's and 80's Sesame Street had several segments showing moms breastfeeding their babies and even explaining to other children or Sesame Street characters what they were doing. Here is an example. In this video from 1977, Buffy nurses her baby, Cody,  and explains to Big Bird that he is drinking milk from her breast and that she likes it because she gets to hug him while he nurses. She even goes on to say that breast milk was all Cody needed as a tiny baby.

          As the years have gone by, we can see our culture's influence on the baby segments of Sesame street. In the following video from 1988, Maria breastfeeds her baby, Gabriella. In this video, we see Maria uses a blanket to cover up and even explains to the little girl with her that, sometimes, she feeds Gabriella with a bottle. She says that she likes breastfeeding better because she gets to hug her. Although still a positive portrayal of breastfeeding, we can see cultural influences such as the pressure to use a cover and bottle feed in this video.

          Sesame Street also does the "You're My Baby" song segment from time to time. In the original 1980's song, a mom was shown breastfeeding her baby without a cover.

         The new video shown now, replaces the nursing mom with bottle fed babies instead. There are no more nursing moms shown on the show today. This, once again, reflects the changes in our culture towards viewing breastfeeding as taboo and bottle feeding as superior.

         I'm sure we can all agree that our children learn from the experiences they have when they are young. As many children watch this popular television program and it is made to educate children on many topics, this seems like the perfect platform to start creating change. When it comes to breastfeeding, our culture has been moving backward instead of forward, with something such as breastfeeding, which was once viewed as the natural and normal way to feed a baby, now being viewed as disgusting, obscene, taboo, and not to be done in public. We hear over and over that "breast is best" but that is not being enforced in public locations,where moms are being harassed for feeding their children, or in the popular media where bottle feeding is portrayed as the norm. By bringing breastfeeding back to Sesame Street, the show will be helping to, once again, normalize nursing. Hopefully, by learning from a young age that breastfeeding is normal and not sexual, disgusting or to be hidden, future generations will grow up in a society that, once again, accepts breastfeeding as the norm and where moms are no longer harassed for feeding their babies in public.

Please visit to sign the petition. We are almost at our goal!

Moms "Nurse-In" at Target Stores Across the Nation

          On Thursday, November 29th, 2011, Michelle Hickman, a Houston mom, was shopping at her local Target when her infant woke up, hungry. Michelle sat on the floor in a remote area of the store in the ladies clothing department and began breastfeeding her baby, using a blanket as a cover. A couple of Target employees came and asked her to move. One of them stated that Target employees had been trained to ask nursing moms to move into fitting rooms to feed their babies. Michelle explained her legal right to feed her baby anywhere to them but was still asked to move to a different spot and one of the employees even suggested she could receive a ticket for indecent exposure. Michelle stated that there were another 3-4 employees who did not approach her verbally but gave her mean looks and shook their heads at her.

          The following day, Michelle contacted Target corporate and spoke to a guest relations representative regarding the incident the day before. She was told that Target was a family friendly establishment and that, just because a woman has the right to nurse her baby in public, it doesn't mean she should go around the store "flaunting" it. Michelle then spoke to that lady's supervisor but did not receive a favorable response. She then proceeded to contact the Best for Babes foundation and organize a nationwide Target nurse-in on December 28th, 2011. Bettina Forbes, Best for Babes Co-founder, attempted to contact Target to resolve this issue before the nurse-in and did not receive a response until the night before the nurse-in. The response pretty much stated their corporate
policy, created in 2006:

"For guests in our stores, we support the use of fitting rooms for women who wish to breastfeed their babies, even if others are waiting to use the fitting rooms. In addition, guests who choose to breastfed discreetly in more public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable."

(Please note that they don't state "discreetly" according to who as this is a very subjective term and means different things to different people. Remember that Michelle Hickman was using a blanket as a cover when she was asked to move.)

         Jessica Clarkson, from target Media relations, who sent Bettina the response. also stated that they continually educate their staff regarding said policy and that they have worked with Michelle Hickman to resolve the matter. According to Michelle, she never received a follow-up or apology. Therefore, breastfeeding mother's around the country decided to proceed with the nurse-in in support of Michelle. The plan was to show Target how many nursing mothers shop there and why they should enforce their policy.

          Daniel and I attended the nurse-in at a Target nearby. We were running a little late because Daniel is a late sleeper who gets grumpy when woken up early and makes it difficult for me to get him ready. When we arrived, there was only one other mom and baby pair there and they were already leaving. The mom told me she had seen no one else so she nursed her baby, bought a few things and was heading home. Daniel and I decided to ahead with our plan. We hung around the food court for a while and, when no one else showed up, decided to look around the store. I attempted to nurse Daniel at the food court but he was too distracted by the food so we found a seat on a couch in the furniture section instead. No one passing by even seemed to notice us there in our corner. Overall we had a pleasant experience but were pretty much all alone and un noticed. We were unable to find someone to take a picture of us but I snapped this picture of Daniel with my cell phone camera:

         Although it was only the two of us, I feel proud to have been a part of helping to normalize nursing. The nurse-in ended up being a big success nationwide. Moms nurse their babies in over 250 stores across the countries with some of those locations, including the one in Houston where Michelle Hickman was harassed, having over 50 moms show up. Many dads, friends and other breastfeeding supporters showed up as well and, in some locations, news crews showed up to cover the event. Target never apologized to Michelle Hickman for the way she was treated and the only statement they've made so far is re-stating their corporate policy and assuring the public that they welcome breastfeeding moms in their stores. I hope, for their sake, that this is true, that they truly train their employees and enforce the policy, and that this is the last of these incidents. the power of nursing moms was demonstrated on December 28th at Targets across the nation and it would be unwise for target to alienate such a huge number of customers. Although no apology has been made, the nurse-in did attract a lot of media attention. I consider the nurse-in successful in this aspect because it has served to raise awareness of breastfeeding and how nursing moms are being treated in many public locations as well as bring the issue to the attention of the mainstream media. Hopefully the media attention will help bring about some much needed change.
Here is a video about the nurse in created by Annie at PhD in Parenting:

You can read Michelle Hickman's statement to the Best for Babes Foundation here.
Also check out Target's response to Bettina Forbes from the Best for Babes Foundation here.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Inspired By Finn Teething Anklet Review Follow-up

          A few months back, I wrote about the benefits of natural Baltic amber for teething pain and reviewed an Inspired By Finn Amber Teething Anklet here. At the time, my baby boy had no teeth and was not teething so I could not say whether it worked or not and I promised to write a follow-up post once he cut his first tooth. I am now back as promised.

          When it comes to teeth, Daniel was a late bloomer. He just cut his first tooth a few weeks ago, about a week before he turned 13 months old. Since he hadn't been showing signs of teething anymore, I had stopped putting the anklet on him for a while. When he first started showing serious signs of teething, he didn't have it on. He was very cranky and uncomfortable and it was obvious his mouth was really hurting him. The next day, I put the anklet on him and he felt much better. For most of the duration of his teething before the tooth came through, the anklet was just what he needed to ease his pain and discomfort and I had a happy baby. For about a day or two, when the tooth was coming through his gums, though, the pain must have been more intense as he was cranky and uncomfortable even with the anklet on. I used some Hyland's teething gel along with the anklet and that calmed him down and we made it through okay. He is now in the process of getting in his second tooth and seems to be doing fine with his anklet on. I can definitely say that the anklet works great for relieving the pain and discomfort of teething and would recommend it to anyone looking for a natural, medication free alternative for their child.

Picture of anklet from Inspired By Finn Website

Daniel wearing his anklet back when he first got it.