We introduced B’s first sticker reward chart last month and it’s become an ongoing work of art and lesson in self-control for all of us. The sticker chart tackled two areas that I felt were within B’s reach but he wasn’t consistent and/or disciplined enough about:
1) Self feeding and sitting down for meals (snacks not included) – I was so excited when B would use his spoon or fork to eat porridge, yogurt, oats/cereal, fruits around 16 months. He’d eat pretty much everything in his first 2 years. Alas, that didn’t last 😦 Now there are times when a mealtime battle looms, sometimes for a reason (sick), sometimes for no reason (aka #terrific2s). Besides stickers, I’ve tried reducing snacks, reasoning with him, even a “join us, eat what you can.” When B eats slowly and gets picky, he still needs prompting and bite-sized food to make it easier (and faster), but all this has helped without needing a rotan! Yet.
2) Going to the potty – B started gradual potty training around 18 months. We first introduced potty books and a standalone potty, then wore trainers at home, moved to a kids potty seat (on the big seat) by 2 years as he was tall enough then. We’re now seeing increasingly diaper-free days and he’s comfortable standing up or sitting down to pee, when the boy urinals are too high (or there are none). The sticker chart is helping to minimise accidents outside, transition to diaper free in school, and when he needs to do his big business coz for some reason, he doesn’t like to sit and poo!
For both areas, I try not to make a big deal out of it and affirm the positive, though I admit, I’m not a patient mom…. As he’s young, I didn’t want us to be too fixated on any “final big reward” so I kept the design fun and open, with him having the freedom to choose and add stickers to celebrate his accomplishments. It’s nice to hear him say “Mama, I pee, so now get sticker!” or “I am big and strong!” (after eating) as he enjoys and understands what this sticker chart means.
Here’s how we did it: For my vehicle loving boy, I chose a design that would appeal to him – hand drawn, copied and adapted from here. I explained what, why and how – even got B to help paint the background while I wrote out how the system would work (with tiny images for our non-reader to see). We stuck it at height level along the corridor between his bathroom and our dining area. As he adds his stickers, he’s also adding to his work of art aka the sticker chart!
June was an exercise in child-led learning. Forget about class or mommy’s “lesson plans,” our theme was on B’s all time favourite things…
(1) Things that go: It started out with us reading Brian Biggs’ excellently illustrated vehicle series, esp. Everything Goes: In The Air for days up till (and after) B’s first flight to Phuket. Shortly after, his Chengzhu holiday program took the Playclub tots on the Duck Tour bus AND boat. Then we ended up flying again (aka the unplanned haze-cation) to Penang. For a boy already crazy about wheels and diggers, it only seemed natural that this ended up as our special monthly theme
(2) Shapes: Learning shapes is fun and easier as B recognises his rainbow colours (he calls indigo “dark bool” 😉 Besides the hand-me-down shape sorters, blocks and a timely Gymnademics home package set, we reinforced shapes through bean bag games, geometric foam pictures and playdough
We used lots of puzzles this month given B’s growing interest (and affinity) for this. Besides the wooden peg puzzles, we took out slightly harder board and magnetised ones. It takes him some time to get the alignment right even if he knows where it should go. But he takes them out from the boxes himself to work at it almost every day. For a boy that can’t stay at a task too long, this is quite a feat! We also used more representative learning to support what B would see in real life, i.e. block building a “duck bus/boat”, drawing the jet pilots and helicopters flying by for National Day rehearsal, browsing through books, transportation art and flashcards with photos and/or illustrated print, role playing with toys and sound effects, etc. We even tried threading with his Good Night construction site set. Speaking of which, B can thread in and occasionally flips it over to thread out but doesn’t quite know? have patience? to keep threading the next sequence.
Art and Craft: So many this month given the special occasions, but no time to complete a big special project (that one’s already WIP for next month). Our faves were:
(1) Fathers’ Day card (done at one of our home playdates)
(2) Garden montage to reinforce shapes and colours
(3) B’s first personalised photobook. To make reading (pages, prints, photos) more personal and fun, and also as an alternative to flicking through photos and videos on my smartphone. He seems to enjoy flipping through it and it grounds him esp. when we are away from home and as we have more periods of separation. Worth continuing and building on…
Outings: June was children’s season and school holidays. So… You guessed it! We went back to the Singapore Art Museum (awesome Enchanted Garden kids exhibit) and Gardens By The Bay (Flight of Fancy’s hot air balloons). We also visited the Philatelic Museum to see geek!mom’s Star Wars exhibit. With the Singapore Duck Tour, Phuket and Penang trips, B is slowly touring his way through Southeast Asia 😉
– Mealtimes are back to normal, even better in fact since our Penang trip. B feeds himself, has a robust appetite, is keen to try new things, and most importantly, happily eats fruits and veggies again! At his 18.5 month check in/jab, B weighed 12.5 kg. He couldn’t stand still to measure the height, but based on his ex-pants shorts and pajamas, he’s definitely over 86 cm!
– Sleeps well overnight (~11 hours straight) but his naps have gotten shorter (~1 hour average) even on days when he’s so tired and nodding off by 1130a! He tends to wake up crying from his nap yet will only sleep longer if we rock and hold him. Another regression? Separation anxiety again? Just roll with it?
– Resumed potty training which I started / stopped earlier this year. This time, we are going the distance i.e. no diapers while at home and playdates. Also bought another, lighter single piece “portette”
– At times, he shows a little stubborn and willful streak so I’ve been more firm with discipline, insisting he continues with the basic home “routine” (incl. helping out, cleaning up), and not giving in to his temper tantrums. So far, nothing unmanageable (yet! yet!)
– Steady progress language and cognition wise. He’s started to fill in missing words from familiar stories and songs, repeat new words that he’s able (willing?) to vocalise and put 2 simple words together like “eat/no more”, “back door.” Oh, and he’s asking “WHY?” 😉 It helps that I’m reading more specific books with big fonts, few words like the Dr Seuss and Margaret Wise Brown classics, in addition to our usual dialogic, fun but variable stories. Besides English, he seems to find Malay/Bahasa easier to pick up but that could be b/c I’ve been quite negligent with Chinese since our holiday break! Of course, if I were honest, for a verbal mom like me who talks, sings and reads to him constantly, I do wish at times that he could say more earlier! But he’s developing at his own pace and all is well
– We STILL haven’t committed to 2014 nursery for B next year …. yet even with my sporadic homeschooling efforts, I think we’re doing ok!
We introduced B to solids today as he’s been able to hold his head upright steadily, developed a strong grip, shown more interest in adult food/eating, control over his drooling, and seems to have lost his appetite for an all-milk diet. Since he checked in at 8.3 kg (18 lbs) last week, we also feel quite comfortable weaning him now. For starters, I got him wholegrain rice cereal, mixed 1 spoon of cereal with 3 spoons of expressed milk and viola. He took to it quite well and from what I can tell, the organic cereal tastes like Nestum which I grew up eating :). I plan to keep serving cereal alternating with milk, followed by simple fruit and veggie purees over the next few weeks. It’s fairly easy to get started – a steamer and blender for preparation, small airtight food containers for storage, and baby food planning and cooking library books for inspiration.
General rule of thumb below, though some moms I know do baby-led feeding and are more “liberal.”
Offer the same solids 3 days in a row to ensure no allergies
Start by alternating milk and pureed solids for lunch/late morning feed (after he’s satisfied his overnight hunger), and then do the same at dinner and finally breakfast/early morning feed
Maintain 800-1000 ml total daily milk intake (=4 to 5 bottles of 6-7 oz/180-200 ml milk). Between 5-6 months, no milk should be needed after 7pm (B did this at 4.5 months)
Once he takes to solids, also offer some water to help with digestion and hydration, esp. during the mid-day
First foods – give them a runny consistency (add milk or reserve cooking liquid to dilute) as he’ll need to overcome his protective reflex that prevents him from swallowing thick solids
AVOID – gluten (wheat, bread, rye, barley, oats), eggs, citrus, nuts, dairy/cheese, fish/shellfish, coffee, honey, excessive spice, sugar and salt
Tips and tricks:
Offer initial, small tastes (2-3 spoons) with a plastic, shallow weaning spoon – let him suck it off the end first, and gradually, he will learn to swallow without sucking
Don’t worry if he rejects, it may take up to 10 to 15 tries so try and try again
Crying in between spoonfuls usually b/c they are frustrated that feeding isn’t continuous
Sit him on your lap to reduce stress
Don’t mix solids with milk in a bottle — this amounts to force feeding and may cause choking, faster weaning than needed, and doesn’t enable baby to communicate
Introduce single portion breakfast with milk, and lunch and dinner meals accompanied by cooled boiled water and diluted juice
Total daily milk intake (inclusive of milk used for food prep) ~600-800 ml (=3 to 4 bottles of 7-8 oz/200-220 ml milk) with milk primarily given after meals now in addition to the mid-afternoon and late night/early morning feeds, as needed
New foods – give a variety / coarser texture (minced/mashed vs blended) with iron and protein:
Meat (usually mix with blander foods e.g. rice, potatoes, and offer at least once a week) – fish, poultry, lean meat e.g. lamb, turkey
Wheat (pasta, cereal), full fat dairy (natural yogurt, well cooked egg, cheese, soy)
Olive oil, herbs and spices can also be added now, starting mild, one at a time, as well as finely ground nuts, seeds – amaranth, quinoa, tapioca root, poppy, pumpkin, sunflower
AVOID – cow’s milk (wait till 2 years old), shellfish, soft boiled eggs, coffee, honey, excessive spice, sugar and salt
Tips and tricks:
No need to sterilise everything all the time now
Offer finger foods and water (in a beaker/sippy cup) in between meals, as needed. Get them involved in feeding themselves to encourage independence and coordination. Finger foods also help relieve teething pressure
Talk to your baby while feeding
If full, baby will close his mouth or turn head away
Establish routine with healthy snacks – 3 square meals a day with the family, eat together but beware his emerging personality (self-feeding, fussiness, food throwing, refusal to eat alone)
Total daily milk intake falls to 500-600 ml. Reduce late night milk feed and supplement the mid-afternoon milk with finger food snacks and water
Foods: Try new things to stimulate appetite and senses, finely chopped and minced. Basically, almost all the food you eat yourself within reason:
Fiber – peas, fruit, veggie juice. Avoid bulky fiber in brown rice or whole wheat
Meat – at least one portion per day, wider range of fish – mackerel, tuna
Herbs and spices – parsely, oregano, basil, coriander, onions, garlic, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla pod
Tips and tricks:
Drop milk intake to allow room for solids. Keep up water and juice to avoid constipation
Offer drinks in cups rather than bottles to help development of baby teeth as cup drinking is much faster – minimising contact with teeth
Nutritional balance towards strength vs immune boosting – starch, protein, sugar, unsaturated fat for calories and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins
Lots of energy rich food with fiber, esp. for breakfast (cereal, fruits) – his biggest meal
Eat small portions but varied types of food, as often as needed
B’s turning into such a delightful little 4 month baby boy!
Milestone comparison syndrome: Hubby and I have guiltily caught ourselves saying “he’s 90% on this but only 75% on that” or “he *still* can’t roll over on his own,” etc…. We have to remind ourselves that every child develops at his own pace.
Food fussiness: After weeks of relatively easy and fast bottle feeding, B started getting really distracted — taking 30+ mins to drink 180 ml (6.5 oz) as he tugged on his bib/my hair/anything within grasp, skipping a feed and/or not finishing his bottle at times. We upgraded his bottle teat to level 2/M for faster flow and also positioned him to face outwards, sitting upright instead with something to hold in his hands. That has improved things though he occasionally drinks only 4 instead of 5 times a day — even going 10 to 12 hours between bottles! That said, as his growth has so far been OK, the doc suggested not to worry and wait till month 5 before introducing solids. I am however starting him on a trainer cup using this all-in-one grow-with-your-baby set.
Socialising with baby: B is becoming more responsive and selective with whom he interacts. He grins, squeals, laughs, babbles away when he’s excited and also has a really loud high pitched cry now when he wants attention! (B has no idea what using your inside voice is … yet). I’ve started to take him to some playdates with fellow newborn mom-friends and signed up for a few infant Meet Up events. Am also thinking of teaching him baby sign language to help our communication. Any recs?
Tummy time everywhere: He’s been actively doing at least 30 mins now on the playmat, sofa, bed, mama’s tummy, etc. and seems to (finally) enjoy this more and for longer periods of time. Once in a while he graces us with a wide grin when he discovers or accomplishes something like moving his hands forward, lifting his head up 90 degrees, making a full push up, etc.
It’s never too early to read: Storytime has become a regular part of B’s day and bedtime ritual now. My parents introduced me to the wonderful world of books very early on and I wanted to do the same for him with series like Go Baby, Baby Touch and Amazing Baby, as well as some great fabric, musical and classic baby books from friends. It’s a plus that libraries here are well stocked, in generally good condition and well used. Can you believe B wasn’t even the youngest member when we signed him up at 7 weeks old? Kiasu Singapore!
His “I” is emerging – just flow with it: B’s developing strong preferences and doesn’t hesitate to show it. E.g. When I turn on his mobile and he gets bored, he now uses his fists or feet to change the buttons. He only likes the activity gym/playmat on our bed; put him down on it elsewhere and he’ll just stare at it, unmoving! He doesn’t like to be rocked anymore to nap during the daytime and will squirm and squeal loudly; instead put him in his bouncer, rock/sing/shush gently for a few minutes and viola!
No, it’s not my second pregnancy (yet!), it’s just B’s second round of vaccinations and wellness check ups with the doc. This time, he got jabbed twice (left thigh 6-in-1 series part 2, right thigh pneumoccocal) AND received an oral rotavirus vaccine. What torture! I really wonder if we are over-immunizing our young generation these days…. Poor guy was in tears when the doc was done but calmed down after mommy whisked him out of the clinic with ample hugs, lullabies and rocks later. He thankfully didn’t catch a fever but hasn’t been able to sleep as soundly or eat as much as before. Do babies feel phantom injections? It almost seems like he’s reliving the experience whenever he enters light REM sleep…. Hopefully these are just short term side effects of the vaccinations.
On a brighter note, his developmental milestones are tracking nicely at 3.5 months. B remains our long limbed and big headed boy at 7.2 kg (15 lbs 14 oz), 64 cm (25″) tall with a 43.5 cm (17″) head circumference. Jeremy Lin junior?! Heh heh. Since his weight gain and overall growth seem okay, doc said no need to start solids till the 5th month or so. The general rule of thumb seems to be to wait till your baby has lost his tongue protrusion reflex (the automatic ability to push out whatever enters his mouth), can sit with his head upright with minimal support to swallow well, can pick up small items and seems very interested in what we adults are eating. Lastly, doc also encouraged us to keep working on his neck strength so he can roll over and sit upright with more confidence. More tummy times for you, darling!