Book reflection: Raising a Secure Child

Raising a Secure Child (Guilford Publications, 2017) is about reflecting on and working with the Circle of Security: how kids go out to explore and come back for comfort, and how we can support them both going and coming back. It reminds us to be bigger, stronger, wiser, and kind, and that children can’t figure out how to manage their emotions by themselves – they need us to help them.

Me, I’m working on helping A- feel that I delight in who she is, not just what she does. It’s easy to have fun paying attention to every little thing she learns, keeping track of them in my journal, but she’s more than the sum of those moments.

I also noticed that some of my internal pressure to get A- outside might come more from my need to be a good parent than what she needs at the moment. Being aware of that helped me slow down and appreciate what she wanted from time at home.

The book talks a lot about shark music, the fears and insecurities that get in our way as parents. I notice that I exert a little effort when supporting A-‘s exploration so that I don’t let my worries interfere with her, and I want to be careful not to make her feel I’m crowding her.

I’m definitely safety-sensitive in terms of relationships, and I can see why that’s the case. Knowing that, I can try to correct for my biases and work on connecting better. I might not be as comfortable with anger as I could be, and that’s worth working on too. I’m okay handling A-‘s anger, although she rarely gets angry too.

I like the way the Being-With concept gives me more ways of thinking about supporting A- through challenging emotions. The sample dialogues were interesting.

I think I need to try the ideas from Raising a Secure Child for a while before I can get a sense of whom I might recommend the book to. It’s good food for thought, though.

Week ending 2018-07-20

  • Field trip
    • A- wanted the stroller turned into a bike trailer, so off we went to Vermont Square Park. She really enjoyed riding around on a toy tractor, and she also played with puddles and the sandbox faucet. She waded in the wading pool while I hung out with Jen and E-. When my timer went off, she went for one last slide with me, then climbed into the trailer without stalling. This is promising!
  • Gross motor
    • After reading “Bigger! Bigger!”, A- wanted to wear a hard hat and knock down a tower made of stacking cups.
    • A- wanted to practise riding her balance bike outside. She walked it a little bit, but preferred to put her feet on the footrests and have me push it along quickly. W- played with the balance bike too, imitating various tricks.
  • Fine motor
    • To postpone bedtime, A- stacked the lacing beads. She paid attention to orientation, intentionally stacking them upside down all that the design was on the bottom.
  • Sensory
    • A- had so much fun wading at the wading pool, even though the water was so cold! She waded in and out, walked circles around me, asked to be swung around, and tentatively splashed around too. She also liked the splash pad.
  • Language
    • “I think I will have some blueberries.”
    • “Don’t worry, I got it.”
    • “I don’t want to do toilet training.”
    • I took A-‘s dry diaper off as soon as we woke up. A- said, “I am practising toilet training.”
  • Self-care
    • A- wanted to play with the forehead thermometer, so we took each other’s temperatures. She paid attention to the colour of the screen. I showed her how rubbing my hands together warmed them up.
    • A- wanted to brush her teeth with the purple toothbrush while I brushed my teeth with her blue toothbrush. She did a pretty good job at it, too. We also swapped so that she used my toothbrush to brush my teeth, and I used her toothbrush to brush her teeth. She’s gotten much gentler, whew! (5.2.3 Tool Use)
    • A- experimented with lying down on the crib mattress by herself for bedtime reading.
    • A- picked out a pair of jeans to wear to bed, and wanted to improvise a belt.
    • A- picked out a top and a bottom for herself, and asked for help putting them on. (5.2.1 Dressing)
  • Household
    • A- helped mop the floor. She was also interested in rinsing the mop and wringing it out.
    • A- wanted to water the garden, so we did even though rain was in the forecast.
    • A- helped me take the garbage cans in, and she watered the grass too.
  • Social
    • We went to the drop-in centre. A- said, “We made it!” She played with the latch board and used crayons to draw on the easel. People liked the red bean buns we shared. I chatted with Stacey and another parent about Reggio Emilia.
    • A- asked a librarian to request a book for her. “I want Cat and Bunny back.” She wanted to wait for the librarian to be done. The library’s copy was still out, though, so she eventually accepted that we need to wait several days.
  • Pretend
    • After we dropped off an envelope in a mailbox, A- wanted to go home and build a Duplo mailbox. We experimented to see which pieces fit into the slot.
    • A- wanted to make a pretend Duplo fire so that she could put it out. Fortunately, we had a fire piece and a water piece, so we were all set.
    • W- made a Duplo flower shop and roleplayed that with A-.
    • A- liked playing with the large shovel at the playground. She pretended to shovel snow.
    • A- pretended to be a dead bird, so I brushed her beak while she lay on the floor.
    • A- picked a Duplo figure to represent W- – the one with a cap. She pretended all three of us were on an airplane, and she also pretended he was pushing her on a swing in the playground.
  • Kaizen
    • I drew and printed visual routines for walking up, daily chores, and weekend chores on index cards. I covered the cards with contact paper to protect them.
    • We blew giant bubbles on the porch. I got better at doing the occasional bubble-in-bubble.
    • I added ELECT links to my entries.
  • Us
    • Good deed for the day: Got an email from someone trying to get a CC Attribution photo from ostensibly that person linked to a site advertising massage chairs. I tracked the original photo down on Flickr and notified the photographer, and left comments on the dupes linking back to the originals. The image equivalent of calling the number on your credit card instead of the one in the email, I guess!
  • World
    • A- lay down on the floor so that she could watch Neko eat.
    • A- was fascinated by a dead bug.
    • A- wanted to pick up stuff in pictures, and expressed a little frustration when she couldn’t.
    • On the way to the playground one late afternoon, A- stopped to observe, “A-‘s shadow is very tall.” We spent some time playing with our shadows before moving on.
    • Nature class focused on soil. We collected soil samples and used glue up make soil art on paper. We learned a few new songs: “Robin hopping, hopping, hopping, Robin hopping all around. Robin hopping, hopping, hopping. Stop! What have you found?” (With a grab bag of objects) “Leaves, branches, trunks and roots underground. (x2) Leaves grow up and roots grow down. Leaves, branches, trunks and roots underground.”
  • Sleep
    • A- fell asleep while I was reading to her, even without nursing. She had been awake for about ten hours.
  • Cognition
    • While playing with the Junior Engineer set, A- said, “I want to make a flowerbed.” She looked for the big hemispheres she used when playing with Tita Kathy’s set, but since we don’t have those, she settled for using wheels instead. (4.2 Problem Solving)

Textbook Thursday: Conceptual development

Just a quick reading session today, since our sleep has been a bit disrupted lately. I read chapter 7 of How Children Develop, which focused on conceptual development. It was interesting to find out that 2-year-olds are mostly capable of understanding that desires influence actions, and that they can predict that a character in a story who wants something different from what they themselves want would choose differently too. I should work that into my storytelling. They don’t have a similar understanding of how beliefs influence actions, though – maybe closer to when they’re 5 years old.

I found it reassuring to read that a 2.5-year-old’s sociodramatic play (like when A- wants to play restaurant or dentist with me) becomes more sophisticated when scaffolded by adults rather than by peers, and adult support also helps them develop storytelling skills. I sometimes wonder what she might be missing out on by not being in daycare, but then again, I’m not sure how much time they have for sociodramatic play in daycare and what kind of support they get. I definitely see some sociodramatic play among the 3- and 4-year-olds at the drop-in centres, with some of them more oriented toward other kids instead of toward their parent/caregiver. I’m looking forward to seeing how A- grows into this, too, and what she can learn by watching/joining other kids’ play (as research says). At home, I can bring in props, playdates, or babysitters to mix things up.

There was a lot of information on how kids learn to understand categories. Plants are hard to see as living things because they don’t move as obviously as animals do, but calling attention to how they bend toward sunlight and how roots grow down toward water can help. I wonder where I might be able to show A- Venus fly traps or makahiya here – rapid motion might be a fun way of supporting her categorization.

I learned that categorical statements work better than statements about specific instances. The example given was that kids learn more about categories from “Belugas are a kind of whale.” rather than “This beluga is a whale.”

Other little things:

  • Causality: 5-year-olds appreciate magic tricks.
  • Spatial transformation: solving puzzles helps a lot. Moving around also helps build spatial understanding.

Stalling

I’ve been having a bit of a challenge around A- stalling, whether she’s on the toilet or we’re getting ready to brush teeth. She wants to do things first (“First A-, and then Mama.”), but then takes forever (“I have a hard time”) or resists starting (“I don’t want to brush my teeth.”). I even got tempted to head down the road of counting down.

Fortunately, Janet Lansbury described a much better approach to dealing with that kind of boundary-testing. If I can observe A- more closely and get the hang of providing confident momentum when she just needs a liiittle more help, that could smooth things over. (“It looks like you might need a little help. Would you like me to put toothpaste on for you, or hold your hand as you brush?”) I’m not entirely clear what to do about the toilet situation aside from offering hugs and a footstool to brace against, but if I manage my own needs more proactively, I can be more patient with her.

Time to read Janet Lansbury’s books and go through her archive…

Montessori, Reggio, and other thoughts on toddler learning

Montessori

I like the Montessori approach of taking kids seriously and helping them develop practical life skills. On its recommendation, we:

  • got A- real glasses and let her use real plates: Duralex Picardie tumblers and Corelle
  • introduced spreaders, knives, and scissors early
  • involved her in cooking and doing household chores: The Learning Tower is such a great help.
  • got two sets of magnetic letters as our movable alphabet
  • chose simple clothes to promote independence
  • got a small pitcher (actually a creamer) so that she can practise pouring
  • resisted the temptation to go overboard on toys, keeping her play area organized
  • respected play as the work of the child: be patient with repetition, help her find the right level of challenge, and so on.

I look forward to using sandpaper letters and other manipulatives. I like the idea of self-correcting materials and may experiment with a few. On the other hand, they do take up some space and are essentially unitaskers. Maybe the Montessori tackle boxes approach might be a reasonable compromise.

We might consider the Montessori casa system next year, when A- is 3.5, if finances permit. I think she likes pretend play a lot, though, and that doesn’t seem to be as aligned with the Montessori approach. I think we’d lean toward a Reggio Emilia-inspired approach for preschool or kindergarten, mixing in elements from Montessori.

Reggio Emilia

The Reggio Emilia approach resonates strongly with me. I like its focus on child-led projects, with the grown-up focused on designing the environment, supporting exploration, and documenting projects. I like its support of play. I like its belief that kids are capable of amazing things if we let them, and the Wonder of Learning exhibit I got to see in 2016 had many examples of that.

The Ontario kindergarten curriculum looks great on paper, with lots of aspects like pedagogical documentation reminding me of Reggio Emilia. I’m all for play-based learning thoughtfully supported by grown-ups. While I’m home with A- and she’s more oriented toward playing with me than with other kids, I want to focus on supporting and documenting her play.

Here are some ideas In applying from Reggio Emilia:

  • Co-learning: A- is the primary investigator. I help ask questions and explore ideas, and I take advantage of the opportunity to learn from her too.
  • Art for exploration and expression
  • Pedagogical documentation: making learning visible
  • The use of technology: We take a lot of photos and videos, and A- loves reviewing them. I talk about taking pictures to help us remember. She also has her own waterproof, shockproof camera, although she still tends to take pictures with her finger over the lens. She sometimes asks me to take a picture for her.
  • Embedding print in play: I write down her order when we’re playing pretend restaurant, and I take advantage of other opportunities to model reading and writing
  • Going out into the community

I want to get better at designing her environment to provoke her interest, and collecting loose parts that we can transform.

I’m also working on building social ties with other families who might be interested in regular playdates so that the kids can come up with projects together when the time comes. I’m also really curious about floor books, but I’m not entirely sure how to implement them one on one with a toddler. Time to experiment!

There’s a Reggio-inspired daycare opening up close to us, but I’m reluctant to commit to it while it’s under construction. There’s a highly recommended private school that follows a Reggio-inspired approach for preschool and kindergarten, and we might go for that if finances permit. Alternatively, I can probably help make public school kindergarten a great fit with parental involvement.

Tools of the Mind

I’m curious about Tools of the Mind’s approach to developing executive function and self-regulation. Play planning sounds like fun. I want to talk about plans more with A- and model drawing the plans too.

In general…

A- is pretty good at learning stuff. She imitates quickly, can focus on an activity for a surprisingly long time, and comes up with new variations. She’s starting to ask questions, and I look forward to helping her explore them.

I tend to be pleasantly surprised by what A- can do when other people try activities with her, which probably means that my developmental expectations are calibrated a little low. Bringing her to drop-in centres and classes helps me work around that by exposing her to other people’s ideas and interactions. If I get better at pedagogical documentation and reflection, I might be able to improve my ability to scaffold her play, or I might be able to bring in more help from someone who can get more of a longitudinal view of A-.

If I keep involving her in daily life, I’m sure she’ll learn all the important stuff. I’ll also make room for unstructured play and exploration, because the world is an interesting place. If I pay attention to what she’s learning and how, I think I’ll have tons of fun and growth along the way too.

Slow days

Some days, it feels like all we do is get through our daily routines. I made these visual schedules to see if they could help A- get a sense of the sequence, provide more opportunities for autonomy, and keep us moving. A- recognizes all the steps, and sometimes even asks for the cards. (“I want bedtime routine index card.”)

Between each neatly-outlined step, however, are unpredictable gaps filled with reading, playtime, soothing, exploration. In fact, we rarely start the morning routine until 12 or 1 PM, and it often takes us a few hours until we’re ready to get out the door – if we make it out at all.

Today we didn’t make it out to the playground because A- wanted to read lots and lots of books before dressing up, blow giant bubbles on the porch, and splash lots of water in the backyard. Actually, come to think of it, it was a pretty good day. Not the day I thought we’d have when we finally got up at noon, but still full of wonderful moments that I was sometimes too preoccupied to appreciate.

I could push A- more, but that’s probably missing the point. Besides, it’s good to experiment with this level of flexibility.

I realized I’ve been approaching this schedule thing incorrectly. I let it become a drumbeat in my mind, and toddlers have their own rhythm. What do I really want? I want A- to recognize distinct steps in the sequence so that she can say what still needs to be done, and grow into being able to do things herself. That can come later. Better to keep our daily routines joyful for as long as we can.

Back to Stoic philosophy. There are things that are not entirely under my control, but I can choose how to perceive things and what to will. The drag comes from wanting something that is different from what is, and what’s the point of that? I may want to go to the playground or the science centre for A-‘s benefit–or is it mine, seeking stories that also reassure me that we’re Doing the Right Thing? Phrased that way, the answer is clearer to me. She’s telling me that she’s just as fine learning from the everyday moments we share. Probably even better. It’s good to work with the grain instead of against it.

Sometimes I want to nudge her along faster because I’m tired or hungry, or I need to brush my teeth or go to the bathroom. I’m the grown-up. I can get better at anticipating my own needs or bearing a little discomfort. I’m also okay with weathering the occasional upset when I need to insist, but I’d rather get better at solving the problem on my end whenever I can.

As I bring myself closer in alignment with what’s out there instead of what’s in my head, I’ll be able to appreciate A- more. What a great opportunity to practise being flexible, even if I might occasionally fumble.