Category Archives: terrific2s

To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul

Lately, B spontaneously calls out letters he recognises and sometimes sings the A-B-C Song while he pretends to “read” the print. Looks like he’s taking the next step to read WORDS on his own initiative, and not just recite from memory, vocalise or narrate what he sees. What a nice milestone for our brand new 2 year old 🙂 B’s also developed a list of places to ask for when we’re getting ready to go out. To my secret bookworm delight, we hear “go library and read book” almost every other day! Other regulars include “Bus stop and MRT?”, “play outside, playground, park”, “Botanic Gardens” (where he likes feeding the fish), “ama 公公”, “爷爷 奶奶” and his buddies’ “house”, “buy food at Fairprice” (we grocery shop together a lot), “ride toy car/train at shopping mall”, “music” and “Chinese class” (i.e. Kindermusik, Jiggle Wigs, Chengzhu). It’s encouraging to see all the time and effort in immersing him in a print and word-rich environment paying off – from getting his first library card at 7 weeks (!), daily newspaper browsing and storytimes, thematic flashcards if he wants to, and just when we relax, chat and read quietly together.

We couldn’t have done it without the network of public libraries in Singapore, notably the Bishan, Toa Payoh and Central NLB branches. The breadth and depth of parenting, baby and preschool books to toddler/family friendly activities is amazing AND free (or reasonable enough if you’re a foreigner). B’s been exposed to a wider range of authors, formats, topics – in both English and Chinese – than I ever was at his age. The books expand his vocabulary and imagination, plus save us money and reduce clutter with more informed buying (i.e. the read-everyday or hard-to-find ones) mainly online via The Book Depository and Fishpond, Read With Me Mommy and Flip For Joy (for Chinese/bilingual) or at the local Popular bookstores.

Last, a shout out to Fun With Tots, an ongoing series of six library workshops on print motivation, print awareness, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, narrative skills and vocabulary.  I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up with B, but was pleasantly surprised by the dedication of each of the librarians who prepared a handout of notes/resources and facilitated their topics with songs, books, parent/caregiver tips to keep everyone from adults to the little tots engaged. Even though it was close to bedtime (8p), B enjoyed each session and would say “go library at night”!  The only disappointment was that so few folks attended. It‘s ironic that parents prefer to spend money (sometimes up to ~$50-$100 per session) on enrichment classes based on early childhood experts, but can’t make time to visit the library or attend a hands-on workshop together (which BTW, costs $2 per 30 min session). Even if our kids attend daycare or preschool, or we work full time, we should still actively participate in fostering a love of reading, a thirst for knowledge and the capacity to imagine in our kids. Seeing is doing and believing. My dad was dubious when I wanted to borrow books on space for B … who liked it so much that he could name or describe all the planets in the solar system!

SO…. Head on over to your neighbourhood library and browse/borrow some books for the holidays.  You can also find out what’s going on at Bounce, the NLB channel dedicated to kids 0 to 12.  BTW, if like B, your kid is just learning his letters and enjoys music, take a look at all these alphabet songs and see what works best!

 
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. 
The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” 
– Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”

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Growing up sage

Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bébé was a rather different read from the usual parenting books so far.  I was quite surprised that French parenting (in the early years at least) resonated with my own East meets West blend so far.  I don’t agree with it all, esp. the non-attachment-friendly actions and a rather socialist approach to do what others do with minimal individual affirmation.  

YET I do appreciate some elements, mainly:

  • Help him grow up sage (wise and calm) as well as éveillé (awakened, alert, stimulated). A child in control of himself, absorbed in activities with doucement (gently, carefully), mindful of himself with no n’importe quoi acts without regard or consideration for others 
  • Have a cadre (framework) where firm limits are set within which tremendous freedom is given
  • Focus on the right éducation (upbringing) rather than discipline
  • Teach him to attend (wait… stop!) by self entertainment/distraction and not be an enfant roi  who is constantly at the center of attention. Building patience and delayed gratification will help with the caprices during the tantrum-throwing frustrations
  • Reinforce FOUR magic words: “Hello, “Bye,” “Please” and “Thank You” 
  • Small acts of foolishness (bêtise) call for moderate responses but major acts require a firm non, les gros yeux (that LOOK of admonishment) and punishment with serious consequences
  • Equilibre (balance) includes not letting being a parent overwhelm your life. Don’t become a daily maman-taxi (tough one, that) 
  • Goûter (afternoon snack) is the ONLY snack of the day beyond the three square meals, ideally together with family
  • Allow autonomie, a blend of independence and self-reliance early on, including separation from parents such as école maternelle (free public pre-school) from the year the child turns 3 and colonie de vacances (kids’ summer camps) from four years on
  • Practice complicité, the mutual understanding that parents and caregivers try to develop with children from birth.  Small babies are perceived as rational beings, with whom adults can have reciprocal, respectful relationships. Note: several baby experts would disagree…
  • … which leads to French “sleep teaching” aka the PAUSE, typically by 4 months. My take on this is not that every newborn parent must sleep train by letting their baby cry.  Rather, consider waiting a little before responding to let baby learn to sleep on his own in between cycles, and then enter to determine if it truly is hunger, a dirty diaper, anxiety, et al.  This gradual “wait” approach worked for us even though we never liked or resorted to full cry-it-out
Caveat: The lowest grade I got in college was in French, so pardon any errors

Secrets of the toddler whisperer

Tracy Hogg’s book was full of gentle yet sound parenting advice. I liked her approach, fun acronyms and practical examples on how to manage those tricky toddler years. She’s not an advocate of spanking – I’m not sure where I stand on this yet as it’s quite a change for those who were raised with Asian parents/homes.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers

Everyday H.E.L.P with tots:
Hold Back.  For the purposes of observation, which is not the same as being detached, rejecting or ignoring your toddler
Encourage to Explore.  Ensure there are many opportunities a day for exploration, including let him play quietly with another child, try to solve puzzles or stack blocks on his own.  Don’t constantly direct, monitor and instruct.
Live with Limits. Too much of anything is usually not good. Don’t give too many choices, allow too much stimulation or participation in non-age appropriate activities.  Don’t wait too long before reining in tantrums, aggressiveness or other high emotions.  Curtail activities that aren’t good in big doses e.g. sweets, TV.
Praise Appropriately. Praise to reinforce specific acts of cooperation, kindness or behaviour

Routines and Rituals (R&R) continue to be important, perhaps even more so at this age. It provides security, cuts down on struggles, helps tots deal with separation, supports all kinds of learning – physical, emotional control, social behaviour, avoids problems by helping parents set clear consistent boundaries, allows everyone to slow down and connect.  Tailor R&R to your family — starting with waking, eating, bathing, exits and entrances, clean up, nap and bedtimes.  Everytime you repeat and reinforce an act, you are doing R&R — for better or worse!

H.E.L.P also applies to potty training which should begin between 18 mos – 2 years.
Hold back until you see signs he’s ready. E.g. Some stop dead in their tracks, stand still, focus and suddenly move on.
Encourage him to connect bodily function with words and actions. Narrate what’s going on when you change the diaper, invest in a freestanding potty and his fave toy “go to the bathroom”
Limit his time on the potty. No more than 2-3 minutes
Praise widely when something is deposited!

4Ps aren’t limited to Marketing either 😉  They’re also critical to potty training success:
Potty – one that fits his size and pants/panties once they go on the potty at least 3x/ day
Patience – never rush the process or look disappointed when he doesn’t pee or poop or causes an accident. All kids progress at their own speed
Practice – as much as he can
Presence – sit with him and cheer him own

The rate of language development is determined by exposure to language and interaction with talkers (constant conversation, eye contact), gender (girls tend to talk earlier), other developmental gains taking precedence (esp. walking, manual/social growth, etc.), birth order (younger tends to talk later) and genetic disposition. Also setbacks may occur if there’s a sudden change in the home (new baby, mom goes back to work, relocation, etc.). A different sort of TLC also applies during these critical years: Talk, Listen, Clarify. Pay attention to non-verbal and verbal signals. Look him in the eye when you talk/listen. Talk in short, simple sentences. Ask simple, direct questions to allow him to express himself.  Play word games to foster interaction, practice and learning. Exercise restrain and patience.

Common speech milestones and red flags by age below.
8-12 mos: Can speak and associate mama and dada.  Respond to 1-step commands (“Please give the car to mama”).  Watch if: child doesn’t respond to her name, babble (long/short groups of sounds), doesn’t look when people talk to her, doesn’t point or makes sounds to get what he wants

12-18 mos: Says first words: simple nouns (“dog,” “baby”), names of special people, action words/phrases (“up,” “go”). May follow 1 or 2-step commands (“Go into your room and get the towel”). Watch if: child doesn’t say a word or two, even unclearly

18-24 mos: Says up to 10 different words, understands 30 or more. Speaks lots of gibberish 🙂 Watch if: Child can’t say more than a few words clearly, follow simple requests (“come here”) or respond to simple questions with a “yes” or “no”

2-3 years: Has a word for everything! Combines words into sentences to express thoughts and feelings. Extensive vocab even though grammar isn’t perfect. Can converse with adult. Watch if: Child uses fewer than 50 words and has no word combinations. Can’t understand opposities/different meanings (“up/down”) or follow 2-step commands. Doesn’t notice or overacts to environmental sounds, e.g. horn

Last but not least, it’s important to teach your tot self control. I thought Hogg’s approach here was a little wishful thinking so one possible application would be to first try Karp’s prehistoric parenting where parents speak (not act) like the little Neanderthal to get their attention and show empathy, and THEN try Hogg’s suggestion of conscious discipline and offering choices through statements and questions. Rather than resort to demands/threats which (admit it!) come immediately to our minds, do/say if he’s:
– Overstimulated and/or running inappropriately/too much.  Stop/restrain him, pick him up and remove from the activity if needed. “I see…. Let’s take a walk outside. You can’t keep running here. We’ll leave once you’ve put your socks/shoes on.”
– Throwing a tantrum in public for something he wants but can’t/shouldn’t have. Ignore it. “Wow, that’s impressive. But you still can’t have it.  Do you want to come over here by yourself or shall I get you?”
If that doesn’t work, remove him. “You can’t behave like this here.”
– Refuses to cooperate while dressing or diaper changing. Stop, wait a while/calm him down, try again. “When you’re ready, we’ll dress up. Shall we change your diaper now or after you finish this snack?”
– Shouts, lower your own voice. “Let’s use our quiet voice”
– Whines, look him in the eye and imitate a best (non-whiny) noise. “I can’t hear you unless you use your best voice”
– Kicks/hits when you pick him up, put him down immediately.  “Do not hit/kick. It hurts.”
– Grabs another toy from a kid. Stand up, go near and encourage him to give it back. “If you can’t let go of M’s toy, I can help you… M was playing with that. You should give it back to him. Thank you — what good cooperation. Now would you like to hold/play with this?”
– Throws food.  Take him down from the chair.  “We don’t throw food at the table.” If he doesn’t want to finish/wants to go out.  “When you’ve finished eating, then we can go to the playground.”
– Pulls another child’s hair/hits another child. Put your hand on his hand, stroke gently. Restrain him or take him outside if agitated.  “Be gentle. No pulling, no hitting. That hurts!” Worse case: Go home.